13 “Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”
Paul now turns to an argument about the role of women in worship from common sense or propriety. He casts two rhetorical questions:
Is it proper for a woman to pray publicly with short hair? (11:13)
Does not culture teach us that if men have longer hair than women do, it dishonors his masculinity? (11:14)
Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
The Greek expects a negative answer to the question in this verse. It is not proper for a woman to pray with short hair because it is an indication of masculinity if she does. Male testosterone speeds up loss of hair while the female hormone estrogen causes her hair to grow longer and fall out less. We rarely see a bald woman. Femininity and masculinity are different, both chemically and naturally.
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
The Greek expects a positive answer to the question in this verse. Nature (instinct or an innate sense of what is right) does teach us that women wear longer hair than males. A woman who wears hair shorter than males is a dishonor to the male. This would confuse the sexes. Uni-sexuality and androgyny are not biblical. There are Christians in many places who want to blur the distinction between male and female.
But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
A woman’s longer hair is a glory or glamour to her. Both nature and custom demonstrate the headship of the man and the response to that leadership by the woman. A woman whose hair looks like the worst end of a mop is a distortion in God’s economy!
The observation in this verse is very general. Some cultures have longer hair for men than others but the principle still stands that a woman’s longer hair is an indication of her femininity. The Bible does not indicate how long a woman’s hair should be, but only that it should be longer than males’ hair to distinguish her as feminine. Most women do not look good in a brush cut!
Note that Paul’s idea for a “covering” is hair, not a hat. Her hair is in itself a covering. The word “for” is literally against. God gave women hair instead of a covering! The words “is given” mean that God made the woman to have longer hair.
God made male and female different, so their roles are different.
It is crucial that men take the spiritual leadership in their homes by manifesting their masculinity. It is also vital that women respond to and support that leadership by manifesting their femininity. Remember that God did not create the woman inferior to the man but as a responder to man. Men need to respect and give dignity to the inherent responder nature of femininity.
We live in a day that diminishes the idea of femininity. The philosophy of androgyny wants egalitarianism and a unisex view to prevail. There is no such custom in the Word of God! The Bible enhances the dignity of femininity. Denial of femininity robs women of their natural beauty.
The argument from verse two forward is an argument of authority. Jesus was subject to the authority of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is subject to the authority of the Son. This does not diminish the personhood of the Son or of the Spirit but is a matter of function. The wife is to be subject to her husband as a matter of function, not personhood. She may be more intelligent, have more modus vivendi, and so on, but she understands the importance of authority to function in a family or church. Femininity is a manifestation of this attitude. If she is going to be masculine, she might as well shave her head bald (11:5)! That is a “disgrace” to femininity – all femininity, whether saved or lost. The male reflects the authority of God (11:7), so he should not be feminine in his orientation. A woman reflects the glory of man, so she should be feminine in her orientation. She was made from man and is not a direct creation like the male. That is why the woman/wife should have the symbol of authority of longer hair on her head (11:10); the angels dealt with the very same issue of authority and volition. The male is not autonomous of the woman; there is an interrelated dependence between them (11:11).