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Men, please stop trying to ‘elevate’ women

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT

Tim Fall’s recent blog post has really got me thinking. In response to a faulty understanding and application of 1 Peter 3:7, Tim writes about the error of husbands treating their wives as possessions. But what piqued my interest is what he writes in regard to husbands elevating wives in efforts to honour them.

I’ve come across the concept of men elevating, or raising, women a few times and it has never sat right with me. It has usually sounded condescending and patronising, even stifling, rather than encouraging and empowering.

This is what Tim writes,

What does it mean for a husband to elevate his wife to a place of honor?

Husbands can’t elevate wives. It’s not only not their role; it’s impossible. Women are already raised higher than any husband could ever hope to accomplish. It’s true of all who are in Christ.

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

Elevate my wife to a place of honor? I’m blessed that God has raised me to the same place of honor he’s already given my wife: seated with Christ in heaven.

In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter tells husbands to treat their wives with honour, and he gives the reason why: because, in Christ, husband and wife are co-heirs, or equal partners, of God’s gift of new life.

In the first century, wives were usually considered socially inferior to their husbands. So both Peter and also Paul encouraged husbands to elevate their wives. Peter wanted husbands to honour their wives; Paul wanted husbands to genuinely love their wives treat them as their own (male) bodies (Eph. 5:25ff). The apostles wanted a levelling of status between first-century husbands and wives

However, by now we should fully realise that In Christ, men and women are equal partners. So, instead of trying to reach down to elevate wives as a form of honouring them, husbands today should simply acknowledge that their Christian wives (and sisters) already share the same status and honour as themselves, and treat women as such. Likewise, wives should regard and treat their Christian husbands (and brothers) as having the exact same high status and level of honour that they have been afforded in Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:10 NLT).

Men do not have the responsibility of raising women, but people in more powerful or privileged positions — and that often includes men — do have a responsibility to help those who are weaker or less fortunate. This means helping, encouraging, and empowering people, and opening doors of opportunity in real, practical ways. It does not mean offering a condescending, feeble, or false kind of honour.

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Related Articles

The Status of Christian Women, in a Nutshell
The Meaning of ‘Weaker Vessel” in 1 Peter 3:7
Protecting the Weaker Sex
Submission and Respect from Wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6
Submission and Respect from Husbands in 1 Peter 3:7-8
Extra Honour for Underdogs (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)
Unity and Equality in Ministry – 1 Corinthians 12
Galatians 3:28: Our Identity in Christ and in the Church

12 thoughts on “Men, please stop trying to ‘elevate’ women

  1. Thank you for articulating a frustration that has boiled within me for a long time! Being considered a potential possession, or an example of a man’s ‘goodness’ in choosing to ‘elevate me’ has long put me off any relationship. It’s good to see that others can identify this assumption and correct it.

    1. It has frustrated me too.

      I have always felt equal with my brothers in Christ, but felt uncomfortable and stifled by their efforts to ‘elevate’ and ‘protect’ me.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Marg. I really like your added thoughts on the issue of elevating people.

    1. Your article clarified a few things for me. I am very grateful for this.

  3. My college history professor used to hold up examples of men putting women on a pedestal back in the 1700s and 1800s (helping them in and out of carriages, etc.) as an example of how men “respected” women more back then. It used to irk me beyond belief to be told that a gilded cage on a high pedestal was respect. Thanks for this article.

    1. I’m with you, Terri.

      I can imagine that getting into carriages would have been tricky in flowing skirts, and that women may have needed help. Being helpful is a good thing.

      In my university some of the doors are very heavy and whoever goes through first (male or female) holds the door for those following. Being helpful is not tied to gender.

      I’m all for stronger people helping out and protecting weaker people, but not when it means locking them up or shutting them down, and pretending (or being deluded) that this somehow elevates them.

  4. This is largely a problem of context and perspective. And you hit upon the corrective in your closing paragraph. We do indeed have to evaluate and apply scripture to our lives, as they are today, not 2,000-3,000 years ago.

    Remember context. The passages you are talking about were written about 1,900 years ago. The social structure of the culture was dramatically different than ours today, in the developed West.

    Interpreting scripture is like buying real estate: location, location, location, is as important as context, context, context, when reading scripture.

    Context: What was the culture in which the text was written?;
    Context: By whom was the text written? (and for what purpose?);
    Context: To whom was the text direction (who was the audience)?

    There’s about 200 years of modern biblical scholarship available to help us answer these questions. Inquiring minds might consider spending some time reading books *about* the Christian bible, and *then* go back and re-read the Christian bible.

    I find it to be a fascinating, thought-provoking, and spirit-building endeavour. There are dozens of good books to start with, but if I were to suggest instead authors as points of departure, I would include: Marcus Borg; Ron Miller; John Shelby Spong; and if one is willing to read an atheist author and excellent New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman (especially his college text “The New Testament”).

    May the Lord bless and keep you.

  5. Whenever I hear someone begin with “The High Calling of Women” I shudder. Even though well intended, experience shows that the “higher” a women is told her ‘role’ or ‘calling’ is, the lower she is expected to grovel. Sadly that has been my life long experience. When the men work so hard to make women feel especially important, one can’t help suspect that they are actually concealing their determination to thoroughly oppress all women on their watch. When the emphasis on HEIGHT is not on the High Priestly calling of Christ it degenerates to elevating people over their rightful place as brothers and sisters.

    I prefer the egalitarian approach that just treats women as no more than equals…that is righteous judgment in my view.

    1. I’m not sure that men (or women) want to oppress their sisters, but I do know what you mean about Christians expounding on a woman’s high calling, when what they really intend is to restrict women to domestic roles.

    2. I really think many men see the apparent restriction in roles for women and realise the women see it too – so they try to put a positive spin on it. It comes out like a pat on the head is for a child.

  6. Awesome!!! I agree 100%! The so called “high calling of women'” is only a nicey-nice was of saying, “Woman, stay in the place your superiors (men) have assigned for you! Birth babies, cook, clean, and do as you are told.” All this “high calling of women” does is elevate men! Women/wives are people, not property. Sure, I’m not as tall or as physically strong as my husband, but I’m not helpless. I can load my own firearms, thank you very much. I can also get by okay with a skill saw, and I can use a map quite well.

    I have gifts that I am not allowed to use at church because it’s not my “place”, or I’ll be “usurping a man’s authority”. It really irks me to think that teenage boys have “authority” over me. Yet, I tutored an adult male former member of our church through his college math courses on a private basis. I used my gifts to help him elevate himself. I have a degree in mathematics, and I have taken 2 Bible seminary classes. I have taught math in grades 7-12 at a private Christian school, but I’m not allowed to teach mixed gender adolescent Sunday school or Bible school classes. I gave up at church. I just sit there and take up space. That’s all. Church is for men, by men. Women are just semi-members.

    If you really want to elevate me, let me be who I am, let me use the gifts that
    God gave me, and stop trying to force me into a one-size-fits-all cast iron box with a padlocked lid! Stop making me feel like men are children of God, and women are just the redheaded step-children of God. STOP QUENCHING THE SPIRIT!!!

    Many times, men have held doors open for me as a show of respect, or to be of assistance. Many times, I have done the same thing for men, for the same reasons.
    I pray that, in the very near future, we will cast race, social status, and gender ALL aside, and simply honor and empower one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. Nancy, I feel for your dilemma. But not all churches are as you describe.

      Neither of the two I associate with are like that. In one, our presiding bishop is a woman, and in the other, one’s gender has nothing to do with the roles played in the service of the church, or the ministry to the poor; a person’s skills determine where they serve.

      Folks in your position, face two choices as I see it: (1) Work to change your own church/denomination from the inside; or (2) go to church somewhere else.

      I personally don’t enjoy arguing and fighting with persons of a less mature level of consciousness development (yes, considering a woman as less than a man based solely upon gender, does in fact display a less mature level of consciousness). For that reason, I shop around and find a church that meets (and better yet) exceeds my own level of consciousness.

      And we ought not be afraid to change churches. As we mature in our spiritual and conscious development, we may very well be better served elsewhere, and better able to serve others. Something to consider.

      There is also the choice of starting your own church (a house church, for example, just like Paul set up during his ministry, which included women in prominent leadership roles, by the way).

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