“Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26).
While listening to a tape series, I was struck by an off-hand comment made by the speaker. She said that women are some of the worst misogynists in the world. This is really true. The womenâ€™s movement itself is fueled by a woman-hating agenda. It certainly has not created unity among unbelieving women, but has rather divided and alienated them.But this woman-hating attitude can exist even among Christian sisters, where criticism, envy, and distrust can destroy the possibility of close fellowship. Though there may be a surface congeniality, a deep love of the sisters is frequently nonexistent. Where there should be kindness and love, there is instead “debates, envying, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). Women tend to be far more critical of the other women than they are of men. But, by the grace of God, Christian women have the opportunity to build a wonderful climate of love, encouragement, and support among the sisters in the church community. What is it that causes women to be so quick to be critical, envious, and distrustful of one another?I believe part of the answer has to do with a sinful sense of competition among sisters that keeps them from fulfilling their obligation to love one another. This competition centers, of course, around men. The young women compete for attention from the young men, and the older married women can carry on the competition in other forms. When sisters are viewed as the competition, no wonder there is a bent toward criticism and envy.
Woman was created for man, and since the fall, man has a roving eye. The girls jostle for attention from the young men and begin to view their sisters who get the attention as self-centered, immodest, flirtatious, etc. The problem here is theological. If God is truly sovereign, as we say we believe He is, then He has ordained who will marry whom and when. In other words, itâ€™s false to view the sisters as competition. Though you can sin as though you are competing, you really are not in a competition for a husband. This means that the redeemed woman can overcome the tendency toward competition by having a love for the sisters.
The flirt is someone who tries to gain the attention from young men in whom she has no serious interest, just so she can see that “everything works.” She may be able to gather a group of young men around her with little effort; meanwhile, the other sisters look on with positive annoyance. They may try to legitimize their annoyance by pointing out her real or imagined sins, but this necessarily requires attributing motives, and leads to gossip, backbiting, envying, whisperings, or real strife. Sometimes the woman with the group of young men around her is really not flirting; sheâ€™s just very attractive and engaging. In this case, she may need to be more positively discouraging to the young men. But in the meanwhile, the sisters should not get ticked off at her.
This competitiveness can carry over into marriage. Though the women may not be trying to get the men’s attention, they may be trying to get the attention and admiration of the community. It may be a desire to be known as the best cook, or the woman with the cleanest or biggest house and the smartest or most popular kids. Of course, it can also be a competition to have the best body. This can either be as if to say, “If I still wanted to compete with the twenty-year olds, I could.” Or it can motivated by a desire to be a kind of “trophy” for her husband. This may explain why older, married women wear immodest clothing. When I was in college, one of my friends had her mom visit during mothersâ€™ weekend. She arrived in hotpants. (For those of you who donâ€™t remember the early seventies, hotpants were short-shorts worn with nylons and heels.) I was so glad my mom looked like my mom, and not like she was competing with the college girls to get heads to turn. Whatever the reason for the competition, women dressing in short, tight, or otherwise immodest clothing will either make the other women (not to mention the men) uncomfortable, or they will be a source of amusement. This sense of competition can also come out in boasting about weight, dress size, or bust size neatly disguised as discontent: “Iâ€™ve gained so much weight that I canâ€™t fit into my size 3 clothes anymoreâ€¦.Iâ€™m having to wear a 5â€¦” moanâ€¦moan.
Women can also compete in their methods. Because women tend to be married more to methods than principles, they can get defensive about their methods. A private-schooling mom becomes defensive around the women who have their children in a home school. A schedule-feeding mom is critical of those women who demand-feed their babies. Women divide into sub-groups in the church: those who use midwives and those who use doctors, those who homeschool and those who donâ€™t, those who can pears and those who buy pears already in the can.
Obviously, God did not design us to be envious and distrustful of one another. Women should reject ungodly competion. Instead of being misogynists, we should love one another in Christ. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind. . . . And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:12-14).