In church a couple of weeks ago, David Stroud, preaching on gender, gave a really helpful (!) exposition of the meaning of the term ‘helper’ in Genesis 2:20.
In case (like me) you don’t know your Bible verse by verse, this is the bit where God has made all the animals and paraded them in front of Adam, who named each of them. But, unsurprisingly, amnong all the animals ‘no suitable helper’ was found for Adam.
David pointed out that the word ‘helper’ has often been used to suggest that women should alays stay in the background, doing nothing but support their husbands and cheer them on from the sidelines. This, he suggested, is a misunderstanding. That’s not the only sense in which ‘helper’ is used in everyday speech:
I might help my children do homework. If I’m helping them do homework, I am the senior player in that helping role. On another occasion, I might help my neighbour move some furniture. On that occasion, it’s a peer-level – an equal – role. On another occasion I may go with Terry Virgo, the founder of New Frontiers [the family of churches to which ChristChurch London belongs], and help him by speaking at one of his conferences, at which point I’m still helping, but I’m helping in a junior role.
In other words, ‘to help’ doesn’t tell us anything about the nature of the relationship, in terms of senior, peer-level or junior. And bear in mind that God is called, in the Old Testament, our helper. [Psalm 118:7]
The whole message was, as always, excellent – you can listen to the audio file here – it’s the sermon entitled ‘The Origin of Gender’.
This is another example of the kind of transformative message our culture needs to hear – the Bible doesn’t say women are to be treated as second-class citizens. Yes, elsewhere it tells wives to submit to their husbands, but it also commands husbands to love their wives in an incredibly giving, sacrificial way, and tells all people to submit to one another in love – so little support there for the idea that women are to be trampled on and ignored!
Throughout the Bible, God exhorts His people to treat each other with love, honour and respect. Let’s help our culture to hear that message. It will be transformative.