Men and women approach the life of faith in very different ways. In this column, I'd like to begin looking at how single women can "keep the flame" of faith.

In Matthew 25, Jesus shares parables on how to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. One parable concerns ten maidens who are waiting for the arrival of a bridegroom:

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out." "No," they replied, "there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves." But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" they said. "Open the door for us!" But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you." Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Mt 25:1-13).

This parable is clearly about the need for every person to be wise in preparation because we don't know when Christ will return. Jesus uses a culturally familiar scene of ten maidens (the Greek word used here is parthenos, meaning "mature young women") who are performing the traditional duty of lighting the way of the bridegroom. Their "lamps" were probably torches on long poles with wicks that needed to be soaked in a flammable oil to remain lit.

If you were a "parthenos" listening to Jesus tell this parable, you might find yourself quite concerned about the choices made by the five foolish single women. Their lack of readiness cost them dearly. No doubt the first thing you would do when you got home that night would be to check your own oil supply!

For the Christian single woman, today's messages about the requirements of femininity pose dizzying contradictions. Take a look at any magazine stand. What is the most important thing a woman needs? Independence? The right man? Equality in the workplace? Great nails? Proponents of the sexual revolution claim that women have always lacked independent identity, that they have been defined primarily in relation to men.

Feminist leader Patricia Ireland writes, "The essence of feminism for me is the freedom to live our lives as we please, and to reinvent the world as we do so." Helen Gurley Brown, for 31 years editor of Cosmopolitan, is radically different in view and constituency from Patricia Ireland, yet in a recent interview she comments regarding why she wanted to run Cosmo: "I really knew from the very first hour what I wanted to say and who I wanted to write for-that 23-year-old with her nose pressed to the glass, not having everything, and wanting more, and willing to try hard for it....[The Cosmo Girl] wants to do it better, she wants to have it all."

The Militant Feminist and the sassy Cosmo Girl are both adamant about what they want, it's just that they want quite different things. One defines her wants in terms of an independent identity, the other in terms of the culture of beauty. The modern woman is constantly pulled between these two mutually incompatible goals. For every Ms. Magazine there is a Mademoiselle. For every book on how to compete with a man there's one on how to keep him. Both views, however, define womanhood unbiblically, because they define it in external terms. They falsely claim that the truly modern woman can only find meaning in how she looks or what she controls.

In the next column, we are going to look at the biblical picture of femininity-being a woman the way God intended.

Recommended Resources:

  • The Rich Single Life by Andrew Farmer: "The truths contained in The Rich Single Life could revolutionize your understanding of singleness. Andrew Farmer skillfully shows single Christian men and women what a rich and valuable opportunity they have.  Just as importantly, he explains how to take full advantage of that opportunity. This book will help you live the single life in all the fullness of God."  -Joshua Harris, author and pastor. Available from the Sovereign Grace Store.
  • Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney: Laying a foundation of sound doctrine, Carolyn Mahaney (wife of pastor and author C.J. Mahaney) teaches women the specifics of practical living that glorifies God. She joyfully explores home as a place to minister, to enjoy, and to manage, plus helps women cultivate their roles as wives, mothers, and mentors. Her personal anecdotes and illustrations from the lives of others add warmth and humor to this book.