In our culture, we are used to hearing cries of discrimination in all facets and venues of life. It does not seem to matter what supposed wrong has occurred, someone is going to blast the horn of discrimination somewhere along the way. It has gotten to the point that I am not even sure we understand what the word means anymore.
Webster defines it as, “To distinguish; to observe the difference between; to separate; to select from others; to make a distinction between; to mark with notes of difference.” Therefore, discrimination is to make a distinction, or to distinguish (rightly or wrongly) between various things. We often view it from a negative perspective and such it often times can be. It is also the case that sometimes it is present without intent because it has not been considered appropriately.
There is an area religiously where I believe this holds true, and it is in the approaches of preachers when it comes to genders. I have often seen it be the case that preachers will preach on topics of need and interest, but will direct the studies, in large part or whole, toward a single gender. Consider some areas where I believe preachers often show gender discrimination in preaching.
Gender Discrimination against Women
Modesty. It has often been the case that when sermons are preached on the topic of modesty most, if not all, of the lesson is geared toward the women. While it is true that women need to hear and understand the impact their modesty, or lack thereof, has on the men around them, not to mention their own personal relationship with God, such should not be done to the exclusion of the men. Men need to learn the lessons of modesty as much as women. Whether it regards shirtless exposure of the upper body in public, pants hanging halfway down the rear end, or the shirt that is so short that every time a man bends over he exposes himself to those behind him: men need to understand the importance and necessity of modesty. God clothed both Adam and Eve after their sin in the garden (Gen. 3:21), obviously they both needed the lesson on how to dress. The preacher’s refusal or neglect to do so is unduly singling out the women to the neglect of the men.
Submission. Men are quick to point out the necessity of submission by their wives. Preachers have often emphasized, and correctly so, the importance of the godly wife’s submission to her husband as the head of the household (Eph.5:23). But what is often left unsaid is that the husband has the same level of responsibility to submit to Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Therefore, the man has an equal role of submission to the laws and ordinances of his Lord as the woman does to the leadership of the man. This includes maintaining both physical and spiritual headship in the home (Gen. 18:19), submitting to the responsibilities of training and teaching his children (Eph. 6:4), and taking upon his shoulders the responsibility of provider for the family (Gen. 3:17-19; 1 Tim. 5:8). Submission is a topic that needs to be preached to men just as much as women, let us not discriminate.
Gender Discrimination against Men
Sexual sin. We live in a sex-crazed society. The sexual warfare being waged against our families involves women just as much as men, but often times the preaching on such issues is geared solely toward the men. We preach to men about adultery, yet I know of almost as many Christian wives who have cheated on their husbands as the reverse; and many is the occasion that a Christian man has cheated on his spouse with a Christian woman. We harp on David for committing adultery, yet we rarely ever focus on the married woman with him who cheated on her husband (2 Sam. 11:1-4). The dangers and temptations of adultery go both ways.
In like manner, we preach to men on the dangers of pornography. The dangers are undeniably vast and the effects grievous on the family and the church. Unfortunately, preachers have often portrayed men as the only observers of pornography, which is statistically false, and have absolutely ignored the steamy romance novels and soap operas that have been similar bait geared toward women for decades. These avenues can cause just as much “mental adultery” and are just as harmful to the soul and the marriage. Preachers need to be sure they preach about the sexual pitfalls for both men and women, not simply approach one side.
Work and Family. We live in a society with a large percentage of “deadbeat dads.” Men who are more than happy to direct their lives however they please with no thought or consideration for their families. But let’s be honest, our society has a lot of “deadbeat moms” too. There are many mothers who are far more enamored with the careers of the world than the responsibilities of the home. They would rather have the 30k in the bank instead of the 30 hours with the family. They would rather be out with the girls than home with their husbands, and they would rather be successful by society’s standards than faithful by God’s. Preachers need to be as honest and fair about the responsibilities of the mother in the home as they are the father. For too long, preachers have been trying to defend the woman’s right to work in the world instead of the woman’s right to work in the home (Tit 2:5). God’s standard will not allow us to call on dads to fulfill their responsibilities and neglect the requirements for mom.
Preachers have an amazingly difficult responsibility: to faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God for all people everywhere. It is easy to get caught up in categories, to look at the statistics of the day, and to speak only to those to whom the topic “most applies.” Such an approach is not good enough. We cannot discriminate and fulfill our responsibilities. Let us speak the oracles of God, teach the precepts of righteousness, and present God’s Word for everyone.