Monday, July 21, 2008

A Reflection on Biblically-based Women's Rights

(Extract from a sermon)

The passage I have chosen for us from the Holy Scriptures is Numbers 27: 1-8

For our very brief reflection today I would like to draw your attention to how this passage shows how the daughters of Zelophehad petition to secure a right of their father’s property. Moses the lawgiver defers the decision-making process to God the law-maker, whose response results in the promulgating of a new law which adds women into the list of those entitled to inheritance.

This new law is in contrast to the male orientated inheritance laws of Deuteronomy. I’m sure this decision must have shocked the patriarchal society gathered at the Tent of Meeting. Perhaps this is why Moses deferred the decision to God to make – for a smoother acceptance, kinda like some politicians getting support for a controversial government bill from the provincial councils before passing it in parliament.

But I digress. The real issue here is the rights of women to property, in this case as inheritance. God recognises this and grants their request.

World population day was celebrated with the UNFPA calling for gender equality. Some three and a half thousand years after the guaranteeing of property rights for the daughters of Zelophehad and more than two thousand years after Jesus, in accepting Martha’s hospitality, acknowledged her as the head of her household, and celebrated the equal right of women to ownership and leadership in the home and society, the quest for equality lies unfulfilled by God’s people.

The issue of property and inheritance rights for women and girls is still outstanding, so much so that the United Nations has included it in their Millennium Development Goals as a priority concern.

Let us as leaders in the church and society, then not just follow the letter of the law as decreed by our God but embrace it and fulfil it as our Lord and Saviour did by working together as men and women, as brothers and sisters in Christ to end this apartheid of gender and seek genuine equality and partnership for men and women.

May light, love and peace flow through you to the world.

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