Guest Blogger: Zachary Garris
Rejecting Unbiblical Independence
We have seen from Numbers 30:3-9 that a woman is only independent if her husband dies or divorces her (Num 30:9). But in the case of a single woman, she is still under the authority of her father. This has significant implications for our families. Graduation from high school is something to celebrate, but it does not make a woman independent from her parents. Turning 18 may give a woman certain legal rights, but it should not change the dynamics of families with single daughters. An unmarried 18 year-old woman is still under the authority of her father and is not regarded by God as an independent adult.
This raises the question—why do we send our daughters away to college at 18 and treat them like they are independent? This is a result of capitulating to the culture rather than practicing the teachings of Scripture. And it should not surprise us that many of these women suffer serious challenges. Rather than having the protection of a godly father around, autonomous single women are exposed to the dangers of the world all on their own. There is no man to steer off ill-intentioned men. This increases the chance of violence against a woman (including rape), but it also leaves a woman unprotected from potential suitors.
Even if a man wants to “date” a single woman, there is no guarantee this man will not break the girl’s heart or attempt sexual advancements on the girl. A father in this case is abdicating responsibility to protect his dependent daughter. Sure a single woman can survive on her own, but that does not mean all is well. A father has covenantal responsibilities to take care of her until he marries his daughter off. And these responsibilities include protecting his daughter’s well being and virginity for her future husband.
So what should this look like practically? Well first and foremost it means parents should not send their children (and especially daughters) out of the house simply because they turn 18 or graduate high school. Parents should still parent their children as long as they have covenantal responsibilities toward them. Now this doesn’t mean 18 year-olds should be treated like 12 year-olds. Children finished with high school should be expected to continue their education and/or work. But children do not have to be sent out of the home or off to another state to do these things.
As for education, there are often local universities or community colleges that children can attend. These are often cheaper and therefore much more practical than a distant university. By living at home for college, children can save money and continue the practice of being under the covenantal authority of their parents. Of course this is not intended to stay this way. If children want to move out, they have that option—but they must know that this happens through getting married. This expectation will force children to grow up and become responsible at a much younger age than the average American today. By allowing children to move out and become semi-independent before marriage, parents enable their children to mature slower and extend their childhood (what we call “prolonged adolescence”).
Problems with Modern Independence
Our culture’s false designation of “independence” at 18 has left many young women without the proper protection of their fathers. But it has also had serious implications for men. It’s quite common to hear people lament the “prolonged adolescence” of young people today, as many men (and some women) continue to live like teens even into their thirties. Maybe they go to college and get a job, but they are still irresponsible and spend much of their free time playing video games.
But this “prolonged adolescence” can also be identified as “prolonged singleness.” By sending young men off on their own at 18, we have created a category that was quite foreign in biblical times—independent singles. Of course this state existed through unfortunate circumstances (widows and divorcees). But rarely did anyone choose such a state of independent singleness.
But today it is much different. We may call a person an independent adult at 18, but we don’t expect any significant changes for these people. In fact we expect them to go to school and delay work and marriage for another five to ten years. And so we are not surprised if they “sow their wild oats” in college and experiment a little with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. This means our practice of sending children off on their own to college often contributes to such “prolonged adolescence.” This is because modern American universities are not just a place to get an education. They are also breeding grounds for unbelief, liberalism, and immorality. Many college students are expected to join fraternities/sororities, drink excessively, and sleep around. I went to a college where they passed out free condoms in our dorm rooms. Why anyone would willingly expose his children to such an environment baffles me.
So I must ask—why do we call our children “independent” at age 18 and not expect them to grow up? Our culture is quite inconsistent in this regard. They refer to 18 year-olds as independent adults, but they don’t expect them to act like it for another 10 years. And we wonder why we have “prolonged adolescence.” Well, we have created it. It’s the period between graduating high school and getting married. Instead of keeping children at home and urging them (and helping them) to marry at 18 or 20 years old, we allow them to delay growing up.
Americans love independence. But we as Christians must reject unbiblical thinking about independence. Children do not become independent because of some arbitrary cultural marker, such as turning 18 or graduating from high school. Rather, children become independent when they marry. For it is marriage that marks the transition out of their parents’ household and into a new one (leave and cleave). Men leave their parents and are joined to a wife (Gen 2:24). And women leave the covenantal authority of their fathers and come under the authority of their husbands (Num 30:1-16; Eph 5:22). This means we must rethink our practice of sending children off on their own before marriage. We must parent children until our job is done, and that means parenting children until they marry. And if that means marrying them off young, so be it.