Is Gender Discrimination a Sin?
Karen E. Pansler, J.D.
I was denied equality, justice and respect solely because I'm a woman.
Why did God allow me to experience this heartbreaking ordeal?
“Several women in the legal department refuse to work for a woman attorney,” a male attorney warned me during the job interview. These women never met me. Why should they refuse to work with me just because I’m a female? It seemed absurd. However, I believed God wanted me to take the job. So, I accepted the offer.
It was a heartbreaking ordeal. The female legal assistants and supervisors refused me respect and equality. And so did the male attorneys and most of the other male employees. Surprisingly, they professed to be Christians!
These men and women put down every suggestion I made to improve the department. They twisted my every word. They watched my every move. I was refused authority over the assistants. I was denied the same freedom to come and go as the male attorneys. In fact, I was scolded for leaving five minutes early one day. Their prejudice against women in authority was deep in their hearts. My efforts to win them over by being friendly failed. Their slander and other oppressive acts caused me to suffer depression and severe intestinal problems. I suffered mental, emotional, and physical pain. I often cried out to God for help. Was it a sin for these employees to refuse me respect because I’m a woman? In other words, "Is gender discrimination a sin?"
First of all, what is gender discrimination? Of course, men may also be discriminated against. However, this message focuses on discrimination against women because it’s more common. Gender discrimination is the persecution of a woman solely because she is a female. Those who discriminate feel that women don’t deserve respect. Unfortunately, men often feel females are naturally inferior to males.
Of course, you know why women discriminate against women. Envy. They resent another woman who has more education or more authority. They feel inferior. So, they harm the other woman with lies, slander, gossip, and other hostility. They try to destroy her personal and professional reputation. Sadly, sometimes they win. But I’ll come back to this later.
To answer the question, “Is gender discrimination a sin?” let's go back to the creation of woman. God created woman out of man (Genesis 2:21-23). God could have created woman by forming her entirely out of the dust, as He did Adam. However, He purposely chose to form Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. God could have just as easily taken a bone from Adam’s head or foot.
Why did God form Eve from one of Adam’s ribs? Well, a rib is one of many bones in pairs forming the rib cage. The rib cage protects the lungs and heart. As you know, the heart is a vital organ pumping blood throughout the entire body. More important, the heart symbolizes love and affection. It is arguable that God purposely created woman out of a bone close to the heart of man.
Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23; KJV). God says man and wife shall be one flesh. Since woman was created out of man, how could she be inferior to man? Why should she be treated with disrespect just because she's a female?
People who believe men are naturally superior to women sometimes quote Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto to your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” However, look at the scripture in the context of the entire chapter. Paul teaches mutual submission and mutual respect between husband and wife. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (5:21). Husband and wife submit to each other. Furthermore, Paul commands each husband to love his wife as he loves himself; and the wife should respect her husband. Ideally, the husband and wife bring out the best in each other.
We must understand that the true head of the house is Christ, not the husband. I Corinthians 11:3 teaches us that the husband has limited authority over woman. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” If the husband wholeheartedly loves Christ, he obeys God’s Word. Then he loves his wife as he loves himself. Why? Because man and wife shall be one flesh.
As the head of the house, the husband may not make self-centered decisions. He must consider what will be best for his family. The wife will honor her husband because her thoughts and feelings are considered, not ignored. Of course, this is the ideal Christian marriage. However, we all know of marriages where the husband refuses to be the head of the house. So, the wife is forced to take on the role.
Now let’s go back to I Corinthians chapter eleven. Above all, we must always consider the customs when the scriptures were written. Corinth is in the East, where the custom was for women to cover their heads. Apparently, some women in the church asserted their newfound equality with men in Christianity by refusing to cover their heads in church. Naturally, this would cause strife in the church. In addition, those outside the church were probably shocked by this bold action. They possibly feared the women would refuse to wear their veils outside the church. Therefore, Paul advises the women to continue to cover their heads to maintain peace in the church and community. Social equality was not to be carelessly asserted. Social equality with men would take time; women already had spiritual equality with men (Galatians 3:28).
Unquestionably, it isn’t God’s Law that degrades woman, but man-made traditions. Nowhere in the Bible does God give man authority to oppress woman. In fact, it is man’s duty to protect woman. For example, in Exodus 2:15-21 we have the first recorded incident of Christian chivalry. Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. He killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. He thought no one saw him kill the oppressor, but there was a witness. So, Moses fled Egypt and settled in Midian.
One day, as Moses sat by the well, the seven daughters of Jethro, a shepherd, came to water their father’s flock. As they filled the troughs for their flock, rough and rude shepherds came and began to drive the women away. Did Moses sit by and watch? No. Moses hated all oppression - even the oppression of women. Moses drove away the oppressive men and helped the women water their flock. When Jethro heard of Moses’ kindness, he encouraged Moses to live with them. Later, Moses married Jethro’s daughter and tended his father's-in-law flock. It was while Moses was tending the flock that God called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian oppression.
Another example of Moses’ noble conduct is in Numbers 27:1-8. The Israelites were about to enter Canaan. Land was being allotted to every family. The daughters of Zelophehad came before Moses, leaders, and the entire congregation. Their father had died without any living son. So, his family wasn’t given any land. These women wanted land to go their sons. At that time, according to the laws of inheritance, when a man died with a living son, the inheritance went to his son. Then he provided for all the widowed and unmarried women in the family. If there was no living son, the dead man’s property went to his brothers.
The women pleaded their cause, “Give us our father’s property.” Did Moses despise these women and turn them away? No. Moses took their case before the Lord. Guess what? The Lord told Moses the women are right. If a man dies and has no son, then his inheritance passes to his daughter for her sons. These women rightfully spoke up for what they believed was just; their brave action changed the laws of inheritance.
Another brave and wise woman in the Bible is Deborah, a prophetess who judged Israel. She asked Barak why he disobeyed the Lord by not advancing toward the enemy. Did Barak question her authority and refuse to answer her because she’s a woman? No. Barak replied, “If you will go with me, then I will go. But if you won’t go with me, then I will not go.” So Deborah went, and they destroyed the king of Canaan. The fact that Deborah judged Israel proves the Hebrews didn’t discriminate against women outside the home. Clearly, they believed God gave women authority to hold important political and social positions.
What about discrimination today? Does God care about the abuse of women at work? Well, when I was in the depths of despair because I was discriminated against, I felt lonely and oppressed. In other words, another name for discrimination is oppression.
The word oppress or a variation such as oppression is used over one hundred times in the King James Bible. Scriptures teach us oppression is contrary to the Word of God. God truly cares about the oppressed.
Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
Plainly, God hates oppression. God sent Moses to free the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians. Today He wants to free women from the oppression of gender discrimination.
In the New Testament, Christ declares his passion for equality, justice, and respect in the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). Who is your neighbor? Every human being. As you know, the first commandment is to love God with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37, 38). Christ explains in verse 40 that all the Old and New Testament law is covered in these two commandments. For example, the Old Testament commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) is now “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” In other words, if you love your neighbor, you won’t kill him, right?
Paul preaches this in Romans 13:8-10: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Many persons post the Old Testament commandments, but how many post the New Testament commandments? More important, how many persons obey the New Testament commandments?
Christ again commands equality, respect, and justice in the Golden Rule, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Sadly, oppressors deliberately disobey the Golden Rule. They refuse to treat others the way they want to be treated. I was denied equality, justice, and respect solely because I am a female. Why did God allow me to experience this heartbreaking ordeal? To suffer firsthand the cruelty and injustice of gender discrimination.
Isaiah 1:17 instructs us, “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Our call to action is to relieve the oppressed. All Christians must work together to see that women are treated with respect. How can we stop the abuse of women?
First, we should pray for a worldwide revival. When hearts are truly changed, men and women won’t just read the Golden Rule. They will apply the Golden Rule – at home, at work, at church, and everywhere.
Second, we should set an example. Let’s examine our actions. Remember, we are to be the light of the world. People who practice gender discrimination are walking in darkness. Our example may enlighten their hearts of darkness. It is very important that we don’t oppress women. If you’re an employer, don’t oppress or encourage hostility toward women. If we’ve committed this sin, we must repent.
Last, give this article to your friends, your family, your church members, and your pastor. Don’t be timid about speaking out for equality, justice, and respect for women. Be bold! Spread the good news that God hates gender discrimination. God is for the oppressed; God is against the oppressor.
Yes, my friend, gender discrimination is a sin. Today God is calling us to boldly step forward and cry out against gender discrimination.