Restrictive Passages: 1 Timothy 2

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

This is one of two NT passages in which Paul restricts the roles of women. Some say 1 Timothy was not written by Paul and should not be included in our Bibles. Others suggest this is an example of a flawed Paul’s misogyny and should be ignored. After giving both positions consideration, I am not convinced. I suggest we treat 1 Timothy as being of Paul and belonging in our Bibles. I reject the notion that Paul is a misogynist. Without a doubt, Paul is restricting women in 1 Timothy 2. The question for us to determine is what exactly is being restricted by Paul? Let me suggest two possible readings for this passage that should be considered in light of how they read in the context of 1 Timothy as a letter and the Bible as a whole.

The first reading: Paul is restricting all women in all places for all time from teaching or assuming authority over men. Paul explains his position by referring to the order of creation and deception.  Adam was formed first, before Eve; therefore men have authority over women.  Eve was deceived first, before Adam; therefore all women need to be led by men. God never intended for women to teach or assume authority over men. God always intended men to exercise authority over women.

The second reading: Paul is restricting unlearned women at Ephesus (or anywhere else) from teaching or assuming authority over men. Paul begins the passage by urging women to learn (a radical, non-traditional position in Paul’s day). Paul explains his instruction by referring to the order of creation and deception. Adam was formed first, so Adam had more time to learn from God than Eve. As a result, Eve was deceived first. Women in Eve’s position (unlearned women) should quietly learn rather than teach or assume authority over men.

Do churches choosing reading number one practice a more restrictive view than Paul taught even assuming reading one? In what way does a woman greeting the church or making an announcement violate the restriction regarding teaching a man or assuming authority over a man?  The same question should be asked with regard to passing trays, praying, reading scripture, sharing personal reflections at communion, or leading songs. Do any of these involve authoritative teaching? Do they necessarily involve assuming authority over a man?  What if men ask women to serve in these ways? How is passing a tray from front to back more authoritative than passing a tray from side to side? If we conclude leadership should be male rather than shared, and we think passing trays is an act of leadership, perhaps we need to rethink our view of what constitutes leadership. What did Jesus do or teach that would lead us to conclude something like passing trays was an example of Jesus-style leadership?

While sorting through this passage to determine which reading best fits and to examine our own practices, we need to remember the importance of humility, grace, and love. All of us, me included, need to be submissive learners.

Caring for Family

Last Saturday Lourene and I spent the day with my mother. We enjoyed eating at a dive known for serving Memphis’ best breakfast. We shared some great conversations. We played cards and a new (to me) dice game that I found both mindless and fun. And we spent some time at the West Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery. Last Sunday was the one year anniversary of the date my step-father died after a six-month battle with bone cancer that included several hospitalizations and nearly 80 radiation treatments.

I have learned a lot from my church family at Skyline about caring for my family in times of trouble. For I have watched some of you care for your parents from a distance. Others I have seen open your homes and joyfully provide room for your parents. I have seen you in the emergency rooms and the intensive care units. I have watched as you have gone to daily radiation treatments and yearly check-ups. With some of you I have shared holy moments at the funeral home.

And I have seen some of you faithfully come into church gatherings while looking tired, worn-out, and lifeless, greatly needing the break and encouragement offered by worship, classes, or CORE Groups.

I am thankful to those who have taught me about caring for my family, especially since caring for family is an integral part of a living a faithful Christian life. Maybe we don’t talk about it as much as we should, but being a Christian means you take care of your family. I have been reminded of this as I have spent some time studying 1 Timothy.

In 1 Timothy 5 Paul instructs Timothy and the church at Ephesus to care for widows who are all alone and who have no one else to care for them. But, Paul teaches, if the widow has family, the church is to allow the family to care for the widow. Paul makes it clear the church is not to step-in and provide the care that the family is supposed to provide. To do so would dishonor God. The church is to encourage Christian families to care for one another as a demonstration of godly responsibility.

“Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God” (1 Timothy 5:3-4, NLT).

And so again I thank all of you who have shown me an example of faith in sacrificing yourself to care for your family. Over and over you have told me it’s “no sacrifice at all.” You have told me, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And yet I know that you have indeed sacrificed personal convenience, time, and financial resources to make sure you provided for your family. It just doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to you because it is done out of love. Love for God. Love for family.

Caring for your family is part of the healthy teaching in a healthy church. Caring for your family is part of living a faithful Christian life. The apostle Paul puts it this way, “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1Timothy 5:8, NLT).

Thanks to all who have taught me this truth. Keep teaching, because I’m still learning.

Living More Simply

Life has become too complicated for some people. So they are taking steps to live more simply. One group of friends met together for a potluck dinner one night and made a pact to buy nothing new except for food, medicine and toiletries for the next six months. Turns out they were able to extend their agreement for another six months. They made it an entire year without buying anything but necessities.

Their story got out and before long there were groups springing up across the country. Seems a lot of people are tired of how complicated life can be when in response to the seductive messages of our culture we become consumed with consuming. Judith Levine even wrote a book (which I have not read) chronicling her experience Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.

Sometimes my life is just too complicated, too. While I am not ready to sign a pact, I feel the need to ask God for a renewed sense of perspective. How can I simplify without letting the process make me more rather than less focused on things? What do I really need? How do I find the balance between being grateful to God for material blessings and becoming attached to them? When does saving become hoarding? What stuff can I do without?

God, please give me renewed perspective.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Endurance

“It’s fantastic!”

According to The London Times those were the words of a woman who recently passed the test to receive her driver’s license.

To understand just how “fantastic” passing the test really was, you have to understand this woman is 50 years old and has been trying to pass the test since she was 17. That’s right, do the math, for 33 years she has been taking the test and failing it. She spent a small fortune on driver’s ed instruction in trying to pass the test.

While it is tempting to make fun of this woman, I will have to pass. After all, in this age of instant gratification we rarely witness someone wanting something badly enough to keep pursuing the goal through failure after failure.

The culture screams, “Right Now!” But God calls His own to be a people of endurance. Nothing builds up a spirit of endurance within our hearts like reading the scripture accounts of God’s enduring faithfulness to His people of old and fixing our eyes on Jesus as He endures the cross.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. . . .” Romans 15:4-5

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Our God is dependably steady, and that’s what I want to be. I want to be more like Him, not giving up at the first sign of opposition or failure, but continuing to pursue the goal.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11

She’s right, you know, “It’s fantastic!”