The Helpmeet Shortage: Why telling Christian singles God’s love is enough, isn’t enough.
Art by Agata Endo Nowicka
Part 4 of 4
Have you ever heard guys at church complain we ladies don’t give them a chance?
Well, they’re right.
The criteria and the methods by which we choose a spouse in the Christian community have undergone significant changes over the last several generations. One particular modification is the adoption of a “work equals worth” ideology, which we’ve transferred to our philosophy of dating.
In his talk, A Transformed Perspective of Work, Barry Rowan notes that we now “derive meaning from work rather than bring meaning to work,” and his observation seems to apply to our line of thinking about marriage.
As accessibility to higher education increases and college and graduate degrees become the norm, academic accomplishments and our subsequent careers have come to define both our identities and our worth.
We’ve mirrored this attitude with respect to relationships and proverbially swipe left on suitors who don’t have noteworthy schooling or don’t belong to an income bracket equal to or higher than our own.
However, Christianity provides us with an entirely different locus of identity! Our worth is centered simply and completely as individuals who bear the image of God and are redeemed by Jesus.
With that truth firmly in place, we can accept the Biblical concept of work in which all honest labor is inherently dignified. We are instructed by Scripture, “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” 1
Another change has come in the form of “transfer of expertise.” We believe since men are experts in their respective fields, they must also be equally intelligent in other areas of life, including in relationships. 2
But because we subscribe to these misplaced values about worth and vocation, we dismiss men with good hearts who would make good husbands as we wait for some new guy to walk through our church doors who’s “got it all together.”
You see the problem, yes?
This, ladies, is called classism.
Yup, I said it.
Are We Classists?!
In the book of James, writing to Jewish Christians of a first century church, the author calls attention to the fact that faith in Jesus eradicates biases in our hearts and in our communities:
“For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4
While this overt case of prejudice may not be a regular occurrence in our houses of worship, reality sadly shows that the class curtains of society hang also in our churches and greatly influence our choice of spouse.
In our search for husbands, we’ve expanded the definition of “unequally-yoked” to include superficial differences based on preferences, creating a “spiritually” acceptable way to be snobs.
Single guys in our churches have been the recipients of our subtle and not so subtle jabs at their attire, the type of car they drive (or don’t drive), their quirks, lack of swag, unique physical features, etc. Have you ever attended a potluck at someone’s home where guys who didn’t look the part didn’t get invited?
And yes, guys are guilty of the very same sins and they aren’t excused either.
When we valorize potential suitors based on their titles or careers, the tendency breeds an unjustifiable superiority in us and fosters an unwarranted inferiority in them.
“But aren’t I supposed to have standards when looking for my Adam?” you ask.
Scripture-informed standards, to be specific – and throughout Scripture character is king; everything else is a distant second, with ethnicity and status-based prejudices not even factoring in. 3 4 5 6
In the Christian understanding of life and love, schooling in and of itself does not equip one to be an ideal mate. Moreover, career accomplishments solely, even in ministry vocations, are not inherently indicators of good husband material.
“Someone has to push a broom,” as Dr. Tim Keller from the Center of Faith & Work has put it. 2 When they push that broom well, we are grateful for it and God is glorified in it. These men are no less deserving of love than guys with a title and the student loans to match.
Yes, day-to-day life looks different based on one’s vocation and income, but men are not less or more because of them.
So what do we do with our preferences, then?
We submit them to grace.
Shaped by Grace
The most recognized definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor.” The original Greek word is also defined as “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life” and “God, exerting His holy influence upon souls... kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” 7
In other words, grace is divine transforming power at work molding and shaping people.
Grace doesn’t seem to find a place in our dating, though. Given that we understand grace narrowly, it’s therefore narrowly, if at all, applied to our romantic lives. It hasn’t helped to be told, again and again, “don’t marry potential!”
The travesty of this perspective is its incongruence with the very concept of grace, in which everyone is on equal footing as recipients of this gift of God.
And paradoxically, the entire Bible narrative is a story about potential!
Scripture recounts how God lovingly and painstakingly draws out humanity’s potential by His lavish grace.
When God’s love is a reality to us, we’ll let grace shape our everyday, including our dating criteria. Grace empowers us to revise our “must-have in a husband” list, prioritizing principles of character over often vain preferences.
To be clear, grace doesn’t mean any guy will do. Grace isn’t license to subject yourself to abuse or to allow a guy to manipulate you into doing anything against your will. We shouldn’t neglect to practice discernment or forgo seeking the wisdom of a “Naomi” (or 5!) as we consider potential suitors.
Defy & Resonate
Emotionally-healthy, grace-guided relationships aren’t just good for us and our families of faith. They’re also a powerful witness to our culture at large as our lives contextualize Scripture for the world to “read.”
We live in a society preoccupied by what other people think of us and life revolves around the nearly constant endeavor of personal brand maintenance.
Our shopping habits, our fashion sense, our level of religiosity, who we date, where we live, and even what we do for a living are decisions curated by public opinion more than we realize.
Ladies, it’s time we stop caring so much about image as it is portrayed on social media and as the world defines it.
Giving good guys a chance is a counter-cultural proclamation that we treasure each other for reasons that really matter.
When we reject the shallow, and ultimately exhausting, accepted social convention to date guys primarily because we’re mesmerized by what’s shiny about them, we at once defy and resonate with a culture looking for something different but not knowing where to find it. 8
The "work equals worth" paradigm teaches us to wait to meet the perfect man deserving of our love.
Grace stirs our hearts to do the opposite: It teaches us to partner with Christ to perfect a man through love.
Because we’re better together.
As always, thanks for reading and for sharing with your friends!
#BetterTogether | #TheHelpmeetShortage
1 Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men
3 Job 1:8 (NKJV) Then the Lord said...“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
4 Proverbs 3:3-4 (NKJV) Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.
5 Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NKJV) Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
6 Colossians 3:10-11 (NKJV) And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.