Recently there has been a lot of talk in the media about empowering women and whether certain things do or do not contribute to this goal. This got me to thinking about the idea of empowerment as a goal for anyone and what God says about it. What does empowerment mean? Empowerment is a very popular idea. So we should be asking empowered by WHOM to do WHAT? Here are a few things I found when I Googled the term.
Empowerment is a set of measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.
A set of measures designed by whom?
Goals of empowerment
The five competencies of a healthy youth are: (1) positive sense of self, (2) self- control, (3) decision-making skills, (4) a moral system of belief, and (5) pro-social connectedness.
Whose morals and beliefs?
Employee empowerment is the process of providing production and managerial guidelines, and then allowing employees to make the day-to-day decisions that affect their job duties. It can be an effective way to improve morale, and to evolve job duties into more efficient tasks.
This one sounds like job training.
Empowerment is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights” (Oxford Dictionary). But empowerment can also have many different meanings to different people—depending on their experiences, circumstances, hopes, and dreams.Jun 10, 2016
Claiming one’s rights to what?
The common idea in these three and other definitions are that being empowered means the ability to make autonomous, responsible decisions based on being taught certain things prior to that BY SOMEONE ELSE. The prefix -em means that the power is coming from some force outside the person and going INTO them. If empower means to properly educate, train, or inform a person, and then guide them in becoming a self-guided, self-controlled individual that acts in their own best interests, then what is taught to them will logically influence what they consider their own best interests. Different values, goals, and beliefs will lead to different choices for equally empowered individuals. Obviously this means that the values, beliefs, and actual teachings of the person(s) doing the empowering are very important. Who do we want empowering our children? Ourselves?
So what does the Bible teach about making decisions, obtaining wisdom, and the source of power? I posted some verses below but I will go ahead and give my thoughts. The Bible teaches that we are by nature controlled by our flesh, or natural human desires, which will lead us to seek to gratify those desires in various ways. Natural human desires include hunger, sleep, control, security, sex, and human relationships. This doesn’t sound so bad, but human history is full of terrible examples of people abusing each other for these basic needs. When acting from a purely selfish motivation, people will do anything necessary including lie, cheat, steal, kill, and manipulate others to get what they want. The average person may only act selfishly or have envy or hate or lust, but some go further and start wars, murder, etc.
Therefore you might say the natural person is empowered by his own human nature to seek his self interest. But where did that nature come from? God made man in his own image and originally he had no defects or sin, UNTIL he disobeyed God. And what was the motivation to do that? Satan , who himself is a fallen creature who wanted to usurp God’s power, tempted Eve with the suggestion that God was holding out on something good, that is, fruit that would make her wise. She wanted to be wise and have power! Before she ate the fruit, she had life with God, love, food, a husband, a beautiful garden, and innocence. After, they were separated from God, they had to work and experience pain, and were cast of out of the safety of the Garden. Seeking wisdom and power apart from God’s rules actually enslaved them to a hard life that would eventually end in death. And nothing has changed. All people who are not born again by the power of God are enslaved to sin and controlled by their fleshly desires in one way or another. Only God can re-empower humans with his wisdom, and enable them to be free from the power of death and sin. When we equate rebelliousness and sexual behavior with empowerment, we are believing a lie. Acting out our fleshly desires is simply obeying their control over us. That is enslavement, not empowerment.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. James 1
7 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1
The verses above perfectly describe the difference between those empowered by seeking God’s wisdom through prayer and study of the Scriptures and those following the world’s wisdom. But what about empowering women, as in helping them be powerful and independent and self-sufficient, doing anything they feel is right for them because it makes them feel good and strong, and they might look sexy doing it? Is that a biblical concept? Not by those standards. Neither is empowering men to do those things. Men and women and children are meant to live right and be dependent upon God. Empowered to TRUST God, LIVE for God, SERVE God, SUFFER for God, and have FREEDOM in Christ from the power of SIN. The unsaved think they are empowered when they 1)Disregard morals, 2)Flaunt their sexual immorality, 3)Make business and personal decisions based on greed, 3)Seek to be independent of God’s control and protection, and 4)Believe that they can trust their own hearts to choose what is right and best for themselves and others, and 5) Try to get others to join them in their sins.
18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. Proverbs 4
What about believers? Believers can still sin and ignore God when they choose to, but we have the ability to repent and ask forgiveness and be reconciled to God. Jesus tells us to FOLLOW him, OBEY his commandments, and LOVE one another. When we seek God first, He will help us along our path in life. He may not show us the future but he will be with us as we need him. God provided a set of rules to live by that are for our best interest. The ten commandments are very basic and necessary requirements for living a peaceful life that is pleasing to God. They are so basic that you might question why it was necessary for God to give them, but then you look around and say, oh yeah. No one follows them 100% all the time when you hold them to the higher standard of actual heart motives. Because of this inability to follow these rules (our sin) and the penalty for that failure (death), we need to receive the grace and mercy of our Savior ! God sent us a mediator, Jesus Christ, so we do not have to worry about paying the price of our sins, and instead we will have eternal life. We will also be set free from this enslavement to our flesh. But if you reject him, you will be judged. Therefore, instead of seeking worldly empowerment seek wisdom from God through faith and let him have control of your life and you can trust that your life will show the world what true power is all about.