Jennifer Lawrence is one of the best-known actors in Hollywood. However, she was paid less than her male co-stars for the 2013 movie American Hustle. She blames herself: “There was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'” She adds, “I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way?”
It turns out, the answer is yes. According to Harvard Business Review, women who negotiate for better compensation pay a high social cost for doing so. Colleagues view them negatively and are less inclined to work with them. This may be one reason why American women working full-time make only 78 percent of what their male coworkers are paid.
Women can accede to cultural norms and resign themselves to lesser pay for equal work. Or they can seek their highest place of compensation and influence, maximizing their capacities and cultural impact.
Deborah was one of Israel’s greatest judges and military leaders. Ruth was one of Judaism’s great heroes and ancestor of the Lord Jesus. Queen Esther saved the Jewish people with her courage and wisdom.
Joanna, the wife of one of Herod’s officials, supported Jesus and his disciples financially. Mary Magdalene was the first person to meet the risen Christ and the first to tell the world about him. Lydia was the first Christian in Europe. Phoebe was a servant or deacon of the church. Priscilla was one of Paul’s most valued colleagues. Junias is described in Romans 16 as “among the apostles.”
Today Roman Catholics commemorate Thecla of Kitzingen, a nun who died around AD 790. Born in southern Britain, she ministered in Germany. In her abbey, she devoted herself to instructing pagan women in Christian living. She did not know then that she would be remembered by millions of Christians today.
In 2013, Eric Metaxas published 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. Now he has released the sequel, appropriately titled 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness. Among the women he profiles is Saint Maria of Paris, also known as Mother Maria. She was a nun who provided help for Jews during the Holocaust. Maria was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck. There she took the place of a Jewish woman who was to be sent to the gas chamber, and died a martyr.
Eric tells us that Rosa Parks was chosen for her role in the civil rights movement because of her unimpeachable moral character. For refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, she became known as “the mother of the freedom movement.”
The seven women in Eric’s masterful narrative had this in common: they sought to fulfill their highest purpose. Ignoring cultural norms, they refused to settle for less than God’s best.
God says you and I are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). As Oswald Chambers observed, “God does not give us overcoming life: he gives us life as we overcome.” When we step by faith into God’s greatest calling, we find all the strength we need for the purpose he intends. His will never leads where his grace cannot sustain.
“My utmost for his highest” was Chambers’s life motto. Is it yours?
Note: Next Tuesday, Dallas Baptist University and the Denison Forum will host an evening with Eric Metaxas. After Eric’s lecture, he and I will share a conversation on cultural issues. To make your reservation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214-333-5152.