If you haven’t noticed, girls and women are all over the place! And that’s not an overstatement. The number of women and the number of men in the world is just about equal, 50-50. The same holds true for the United States, almost 50-50. But there are some places in the country where women outnumber men. In fact, of the 50 states, about 40 of them are predominantly populated by women. Women in the U.S. tend to live longer than men, to the point of women outnumbering men 2-1 by the age of 85. And when it comes to the Christian church, like I said, girls and women are everywhere!
Women in the U.S. are more likely than men to attend religious services in their lifetime and more likely to attend a service at least once a week. Women are also more likely than men to read Scripture during their lifetime and read it at least once a week. With the prevalence of women in the community and the church, it just makes sense that preaching and teaching would more frequently use scriptural texts that highlight women and address issues that are significant to both men AND WOMEN. For those preachers and teachers who are skeptical as to whether there is enough scriptural content to speak to these issues, you can put your concerns to the side. There is no scarcity of Scripture to address the needs, concerns and experiences of women.
The Old Testament is rich with a diversity of experiences that women faced. Although some of the women are anonymous in the scriptures, in many biblical texts, we actually have a name and family relationships as well as health, social, and economic issues that applied overwhelmingly to the women. A creative and close look at the women of the Old Testament reveals that they were very much like women of today — not only concerned about being wives and having children.
Certain topics are seldom addressed in church — like sexual abuse and assault, single parenting, infertility, and mental health. The failure to address these topics is probably due to preachers and congregants feeling uncomfortable with the subject matter. Remaining silent provides a sense of comfort, but it is a false sense of comfort. That is not the purpose of ministry. The purpose of ministry is to provide healing and wholeness of spirit, body, and soul for the individual as well as the church and community. Effective preaching and teaching must address a wide gamut of topics. Women in the Old Testament and their stories can be used as sources of empathy, empowerment, and encouragement as well as examples of agency for 21st century women.
The following is a list of nine potential topics, Old Testament texts, and the women at the center of the texts. Also included are the percentages and numbers of 21st century women who are part of these respective categories. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a start toward highlighting Old Testament women whose stories can, and should inspire sermons on models of healing and wholeness to women in the 21st century.
- Depression: Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Leah Genesis 29: 16-35; Hannah First Samuel 1:1-18
- Infertility: Approximately 6.1 million U.S. women experience infertility. Sarah Genesis 16:1; Leah Genesis 29: 16-35; Hannah First Samuel 1:1-18
- Equal Rights: The Equal Rights Amendment would give women equal rights to men and prohibit discrimination against women in areas such as employment and property ownership. The ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the 50 states for approval. The amendment can only be added to the U.S. Constitution if at least 38 states approve it. This has not been done. Mahlah, Michah, Hoglah, Noah, Tirzahm Number 27:1-8
- Child Advocates: Women overwhelmingly outnumber men in jobs as child advocates, such as social workers. Shiphrah and Puah Exodus 1:8-21; Jochebed Exodus 2:1-10
- Widowhood and Grief: Women in the U.S. (and around the world) tend to live longer than men. This amounts to more married women being widows. Ruth Ruth: 1:1-5
- Sexual Abuse: One in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives; 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18 years old and 20 percent–25 percent of college women are victims of forced sex during their time in college. Bilhah and Zilpah Genesis 30; Dinah Genesis 34; Bathsheba Second Samuel 11:3-4
- Women in Military Service and Combat: Women make up 16 percent of enlisted forces and 18 percent of the officer corps in the United States. Jael Judges 4:17-24;
- Women in Politics: In the U.S., women hold 23.7 percent of the 535 seats in the 116th Congress; 27.6 percent of the 312 available statewide elective executive positions; and 28.7 percent of the 7,383 state legislative positions. From 1971 to 2019, the percentage of women in elected offices has gone from 3 percent to 28.7 percent. Abigail First Samuel 25:2-35
- Single Parenting: In single parent households, 23 percent are mothers while 4 percent are fathers. Hagar Genesis 16 and Genesis 21
Editor’s note: This article was first published at Kanishaladkins.com.