Sunday, May 7, 2017
But, that was never "me" as a personality. I was always bold, extroverted, anything but quiet and would argue my point with anyone who would listen. I would listen to people teach about the supposed quiet, godly woman and I would literally think I would never be anything close to godly because I saw no hope of being quiet, submissive and humble.
Being quiet and submissive had only led to trouble in my life. Being bold and speaking out - loudly - was survival for me as a kid. I had to have a voice and it had to be loud at times and it served me well against my violent, alcoholic father who seemed bent on destruction at every turn. It also served me well when interacting with my 7 siblings because I learned early on that if I didn't speak up, and loudly, I might just go hungry. If I wasn't bold and unafraid to step up, I could be left out in the cold, literally sometimes. So, imagine my distress when I found out, through different Christian people, that my very personality was an affront to God, Himself. My first question was, "Why did He make me this way if it's the wrong way to be?"
I had some learning to do, so I began to read God's Word and observe Christian women who held themselves up as "godly." A problem quickly arose. The women I observed were contradicting certain parts of the Bible, sinning in many ways, yet still calling themselves godly. And they weren't submissive at all. They talked the submissive talk, but they did not practice what they preached. While they taught submission, they berated their husbands, belittled them and rolled their eyes, publicly, at things their husbands said and did. This was very confusing to me. I had to find out what God really wanted me to be.
First, I stopped listening to those women, then I began to look to God, alone, through His Word.
Enter Proverbs 31. There are no commands in Proverbs 31. There are no formulas, schedules or how-to instructions. What we have is a beautiful description of a virtuous woman. The words of King Lemuel's mother; her description of a virtuous woman.
Apparently, King Lemuel's mother was very influential in his life. He not only repeated her words, he gave her the credit.I know modern men who don't give their mothers or wives credit for anything, but they take the credit, then minimize it if the one who deserves the credit speaks up about it. King Lemuel was humble, among his other positive traits.
Back to Proverbs 31. For the first 9 verses, she gives him very sound advice, with reasoning thrown in. She encourages him to avoid alcohol so that his judgment will not be clouded and he will not lose sight of the people under oppression. She encourages him to be their voice, to "plead the cause of the poor and needy." Clearly, she was compassionate. She goes into a lengthy description of a woman admired, trusted and virtuous.
Even if you break this down into a simple list, you can clearly see that the virtuous woman was anything but quiet and submissive. She is described as strong and honorable. She is not described as quiet and submissive. It seems that everything all those Christian women told me in the past was wrong. The virtuous woman is the very opposite of what they told me. I was duped! You were duped!
I was told the husband was to be the provider, but verse 15 tells me she provides food for her household. It doesn't say "prepares," it says "provides."
I was told the husband was to make the main decisions in a family (although we never practiced this). Verse 16 tells me she buys real estate based on her own judgment, then after making a profit, she uses that profit to plant a vineyard. Her husband is not mentioned at all...she's making all these decisions herself, without even consulting him, apparently. The Bible says "she," not "they." So much for the husband having the "final say." Also, verse 24 tells me she makes linen garments and sells them and provides sashes for the merchants. Again, this decision is hers, alone. This action is hers, alone.
I was told that wives should stay home and only manage the household, but in verse 14, I see the virtuous woman traveling the world to bring home the best she can find for her family. This is another huge contradiction.
In summary, I don't see a quiet, submissive woman living in the shadow of a husband, waiting on him to make decisions for her or her family. I see a strong, determined, intelligent, hard-working woman living her life and doing what she wants to do with love, compassion and confidence. She made the deals with the merchants. She bought the real estate. She planted the vineyard. She ran the household and her international businesses at the same time. She used her own discernment to decide if a piece of real estate or some merchandise was good. She depended on no one else.
Why, then, do churches teach young women to be quiet and submissive? Shouldn't we be teaching them to be strong, decisive, determined and smart? Shouldn't we be teaching them to get out there and do what they want/can to provide for and enrich their families? The Proverbs 31 woman was not afraid of winter because she took care of her family and servants and knew they would be fine. She saw to this herself, she waited for no one.
Her husband did not supervise her life, did not provide approval or guidance or leadership in any way. He was busy with other businessmen as they all did their own business.
She is described as strong, or having strength at least 3 times in 21 verses. We need to stop telling young wives to be quiet and submissive and start telling them to be strong and decisive.....if we want to teach them to be virtuous women. We need to stop telling young men that they are the "leaders" and, therefore, their wives have to submit to them in ways that the Bible never teaches and never intended. The way it's taught in most churches now is wrong.....it's twisted and has been twisted for decades.
Verse 26 tells me she opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness. "She opens her mouth....." She's not afraid to speak up to teach with wisdom and she does it with kindness....but she opens her mouth.
Another interesting thing about the virtuous woman is that her husband is never described as "needy." I see women teaching other women that their husband has "needs" (usually a focus on sexual) and she's to meet those "needs" no matter how she feels about it in any given moment. The virtuous woman's husband is focused on his work and what he needs to do; he's not focused on sex or on making sure his wife is submissive. These two each live their lives with a focus on others, on doing their jobs, taking care of family and business with complete confidence in each other to make their own decisions and do their own business.
Oh, could that be it? Could that be what marriage should look like? Instead of a husband focusing on sex and submission and a wife focusing on making sure she's quiet and submissive, maybe married couples should focus on God, who He made them to be, opportunities He gave them and the best way to use their gifts without holding back. Maybe, just maybe, this is what we need to teach young people and young couples. Strength, not submission, should be a godly wife's story. Surely compassion is up there with strength. Look and see for yourself.
Maybe if those self-proclaimed "godly" women in my life who were gossiping about their husbands and sneering behind their backs could have done better if they were honest with themselves and stopped trying to be "quiet and submissive" and were bold and strong instead. Maybe there would have been no need for the ever-evident resentment their actions so loudly displayed.
Monday, May 1, 2017
I can always tell when a commentary, rather than the Word of God, has been used in sermon prep. I think it's a shame, too. This practice not only hurts the pastor doing the prep, but it hurts the listeners as well.
I Peter 2:2 tell us, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby."
God wisely gives us the perspective of His Word as milk...and not just milk, but sincere milk. As the mom of 8 kids, I can tell you first hand, it's not good for newborn babies to have anything but the sincere milk they need to start off life. With my first baby, my doctor advised me to give him nothing but my milk for at least the first 6 months. No water, No juice. No food. Just the sincere milk of his mama, so that he would grow. While the same applies to non-nursing newborns, they ought to be given the sincere milk of the formula their doctor prescribes. You can't just give a newborn cow's milk, soy milk or almond milk. They need "sincere" milk. They need highly nutritious, high protein, pure milk, either from their mama or specially formulated......so they can grow properly.
Commentaries are not for newborns. Baby Christians need the sincere milk of the Word of God. They need the real thing, not a watered down version that has lost its potency. They need the pure Word of God, not the opinions of men. Commentaries are the opinions of men. When a pastor heavily uses commentaries for sermon prep, they are giving their people a watered-down version of the Word, not the pure Word. The result is, the people don't grow as they ought. Their behavior might change for a while, but their hearts are not growing, they are only temporarily changing their behavior to please people and try to fit in with everyone else. This is not discipleship, this is cloning. God does not want clones; He did not tell us to make clones. He told us to make disciples.
Pastors, take a look at your sheep. Are they stepping up to serve? If you're begging for helpers and volunteers to teach and no one is stepping up, it could be that they are spiritually malnourished from shallow preaching that has been heavily watered down by commentaries. Babies who are properly fed want to learn all the time, then they want to share that knowledge. It's impossible to stop a properly fed newborn from growing, learning and wanting to share that learning with their world. When babies don't do this, pediatricians call it "failure to thrive" and immediate steps are taken to improve their diet. Are your sheep failing to thrive in their Christian walk?
Commentaries are not for pulpit ministry. Once a person has established their ability to learn from God's Word by personal observation and interpretation, they can begin to refer to a commentary here and there as a reference to see what others have concluded about a passage of Scripture. It's assumed that one who is a pastor has already learned how to make their own personal observations and learned to interpret God's Word properly. If they want to read a commentary to see how their interpretations line up with others who are assumed to be like-minded, then reading a commentary is highly appropriate to their study. However, when a commentary is the first thing a pastor grabs for sermon prep and does not do any of their own observations and interpretation, there is a big weakness in their ability to dig out the Truths in God's Word. This, in turn, leads to a weak pulpit ministry....and weak sheep with a failure to thrive.
Commentaries are not always right. God's Word is always right, but since commentaries are written by humans, we have to assume they have contain mistakes. There is not one commentary that is 100% right 100% of the time. Since it would take a tremendous amount of time to flush out every mistake, why use a faulty guide in the first place? There are no mistakes in God's Word. None. And if one does not feel confident in their ability to observe and interpret, they can be reminded that the perfect Holy Spirit is their Guide. I do not understand people's insistence on using an imperfect resource as a main resource when the Perfect One is so readily available.
I fear many lay aside God's Word and pick up commentaries first. They ought to lay aside the commentary and pick up God's Word for a change. They might be surprised when their church begins to grow and thrive beyond their expectations. After all, this is how we all grow.