The quest for equality is one that drives many women in our culture today. Of course, everyone has different ways of pursuing this. Some women want equal pay to men. Others want women to be able to do everything men can. And many wives and mothers try to seek equality in the home, by making sure there is “equal division” of labour and child-caring tasks.
For a time, I pursued this too (although I wouldn’t have said I was doing so at the time). I thought that things would be happier in our home if my husband did more of the housework. Being a Stay at Home Mum, I realised that perfect “equality” there would be downright foolish to pursue (there are not enough hours in the day for him to work full time and do half the housework!). But I still wanted him to do more than he was doing – partly out of a desire to have my burden relieved, partly out of a desire for my husband to meet the modern standard of “a good husband”. Somewhere along the way I realised that happiness does not come from perfectly arranging our external circumstances in the way that we think is best. Happiness comes from our internal attitude and focus. A person can have everything they could imagine wanting in life, and still not be satisfied if they try to find their contentment in those things (see the whole book of Ecclesiastes). Meanwhile, a person can have nothing in the way of worldly possessions or ideal life circumstances, and yet be truly, deeply satisfied and joyful (see the apostle Paul).
I am convinced now that the pursuit of equality is at odds with finding true happiness. Let me explain why…
Equality is defined as:
The state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities.
And equal means:
Being the same in quantity, size, degree or value.
Do men and women have equality?
What about before the world? Are men and women equal “in status, rights or opportunities”?
No, certainly not.
But why is equality in all things something worth pursuing for women? If equality in all things is reached (hypothetical – this is impossible in real terms), what then? Equality is not such a noble goal, it is an empty pursuit, a chasing after the wind.
Let me propose a better pursuit.
Philippians 2:3-11 is one of those passages I keep coming back to. It is so rich with meaning, so beautiful in it’s presentation of Christ and so deeply challenging.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”
And what was Jesus’ attitude?
– Humility. Jesus is the only person who ever lived a perfect life, completely worthy of worship, and yet everything he did on earth was to glorify the Father, not himself. He had every reason to be proud, and yet he humbled himself. He willingly took on a position that was so far beneath him, made himself “nothing”. How would you feel about lowering yourself to a position of “nothingness”?
– Obedience to God, even when this obedience cost him his life. Do you have a limit when it comes to obeying God? Are there any of his commands that make you flinch? Are there any you refuse to follow?
– He gave all glory to God. I’m sure all Christians would love God to be glorified through their lives – this is the most noble purpose any human can have. But how do you imagine God will be glorified through your life? Do you imagine doing some wonderful feat in God’s name, and your name becoming known in the process? This may well be God’s plan for some, but are you prepared to wade through the sewers (metaphorically, or even literally!) for God’s name to be praised, and yours to be forgotten? Are you prepared to suffer great loss and heartache, all to bring glory to God’s name?
– He was equal to God, but he did not consider this something to be grasped. He did not spend his time making sure he was treated like God, and making sure everyone knew he was God. He did not chase after the status of equality with God. You could say that he willingly ran away from it.
Christian women – what if we stopped pursuing equality and started pursuing humility? How different would our lives look if we stopped insisting on our rights, and started giving up our rights, as Jesus did? What if instead of trying to prove how much better (smarter, prettier, more ambitious) than other people we are, we started to “consider others better than ourselves”?
Let me suggest the result might be that people are drawn to look at Jesus, instead of at us. And that ultimately, He will be glorified through us.