Until very recently in history families were considered to be a single economic unit. This is still part of the U.S. Tax Code. The word “economic” comes from the Greek word “oikos,” which means household. It did not mean that men “worked” and women didn’t. It did not mean that men worked outside the home and women worked inside the home. Rather, it meant that the family household was the central focus and location of work. The household was an economic unit. With industrialization, work moved from the household to the factory and/or office. The point is that over time the focus of work has moved out of the household.
It is also a well-established fact that the industrialization that has occurred over the past 200 years has not only completely changed the most fundamental structures of human society, but has had a particularly detrimental effect on the family, on the bonds of family life and on family responsibilities. It has also distanced contemporary culture from the values and norms of the Bible. So, it is no surprise that we have difficulty understanding and/or adapting to biblical culture. At best biblical culture in contemporary society operates in fits and starts. This is only to say that the Kingdom of God is not yet manifest in its fullness.
Note that the Bible plays a key role in God’s long range plan to move biblical culture from the periphery to the center of human society. Christian culture today is a counter culture in that the dominant contemporary culture is not Christian — it is unlikely that it ever was completely Christian, but was undoubtedly substantially Christian. Nonetheless we must understand that God intends to change human culture and the structures of human societies to conform to the values and practices taught in Scripture. Thus, Christians cannot avoid culture by retreating into various Christian ghettos (sub-cultures), nor by being assimilated into the popular culture — not even in the name of Jesus.
Many Christians and their contemporary churches are just as worldly as the surrounding culture, except that they practice their worldliness in the name of Jesus — thinking and saying one thing while doing another. This is not how things should be. Christians are to be actively involved in the centers of human culture, influencing those centers with biblical values and practices. Christians are to influence the centers of culture, not be influenced by them. The difference is critical and has proven to be difficult to accomplish.
The classic formulation is for Christians to be in the culture but not of the culture, to live in its midst without being caught up in it, without being defined by it, without finding their identity in it. Unfortunately, too many people today are in the church and of the world. They have it backwards. They are caught up in a baptized version of popular culture through without realizing that there is not much difference between those who covet sin a little and those who covet sin a lot.
This is the primary mechanism that drains Christianity of its strength in our day. People think that they are Christian because they “walked the aisle,” or because they go to church, or because they grew up in the church. The world and the church are awash in a kind of logical disconnect, where people say they believe in something but act as if they don’t — except possibly sometimes at church. At church they dress their secular beliefs in Christian clothes. They believe those who teach that church and God and religion are fine, but must not mix with government, politics or the work place, that it is wrong to practice Christianity if someone objects to it. But this flies in the face of the biblical created order.
In God’s culture Adam was created before Eve, and she was created differently, by a different process, a derivative process, and to function in a different role. Adam, the man, had greater responsibility because he was created first and given a job. Eve was to be his helper. So, his greater responsibility required greater authority. Sinful women have envied Adam’s position of authority over the years, thinking him to have been more important or of a higher status in God’s eyes. That’s not the way that God sees it, but it is the way that sinful people see it. Women (and others) have striven for equality without understanding that their claim to equality is based on the presumption that they know more than God, who created them, or that they are more moral than God, who did not institute the kind of equality that sinners want.
Paul wrote to the Philippians about this issue of social equality, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus was not concerned about equality. He was concerned about God’s justice and He appealed to God’s grace. God knew that Jacob and Esau were not equal (Romans 9:13), nor are any other two people. Equality of being is a mirage.
The very heart of Christianity is about justice and grace, truth and mercy. God’s justice is representational justice, and His grace is representational grace. Why? Because justice and grace are expressions of authority and God’s authority is always representational authority. Our union with Christ through regeneration is not a union of equality of any sort. It is, rather, a representational union. Christ is our head, our representative on the cross and through His resurrection in God’s judgment court. He represents us before God, sort of like your senator represents you in the senate, or your defense lawyer represents you in court.
Adam was created and given a job — naming and classifying the animals. Only then he was given a wife. Why was Adam given a wife? Genesis 2:20 says it best, “there was not found a suitable helper for Adam.” She was not created to be an equal, but a helper. The Hebrew that is translated as “suitable helper” in this verse literally means exactly that. Sinful people have assumed that being a helper is less valuable than being the one helped. But Scripture does not suggest any such thing.
Is there anyone who does not work as a helper to someone else? I doubt it. All jobs, all work is a form of some kind of help for someone else. Everyone helps someone else and everyone has a boss. There is nothing demeaning about being an assistant, or in biblical terms, a servant — except from the eyes of an unbeliever. Christians are called to be servants, and the “higher” people rise in Christian authority, the more service is expected of them.
Paul goes on to show two things based upon verse 12, “for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” First, he indicates that the way things are now is not is not the way they were in the Garden. God’s creation was categorically different in form and structure from the natural processes we see in operation today. At Creation, God made Eve from Adam’s rib. But today men are born from the wombs of women. God’s ways and methods are not our ways and methods. God established several cultural practices to remind us of that fact, and Paul’s injunction regarding head coverings serves in that capacity, as a reminder of the order of Creation and of God’s authority.
Secondly, Paul tells us that God’s authority is absolute, that “all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:12). Lest we begin to think that our ways are on a par with God’s, Paul reminds us that even the fact that women now give birth to men is not a function of the power and authority of humanity, but is simply another derivative authority that also belongs to God. So, if you don’t like the way that things are, the way that Paul has laid them out, you need to take it up with God, not with Paul, and by extension, not with the church, nor with the husband, but with God Himself — at least as long as the husband and the church are functioning according to God’s Word. Where they are not in line with God’s Word (Scripture) they are liable to correction, but where they are in line with God’s Word they are due honor and respect. Obedience to a faithful husband — faithful to Jesus Christ — is faithfulness to God.