I consider myself a relatively smart person. I got good grades at school. I feel I learn things quickly. I can put together an excel spreadsheet like nobody’s business. But something I have a tough time with is unravelling the mysteries of the Bible. Sure, I’ve got the basics down, but when you get into some of the tougher issues, my brain gets lost in all the words. I think this malady is consistent with any sort of reading about deep subjects actually…Nathaniel Hawthorne or William Faulkner anyone?
I realize my shortcomings even more in comparison to the brilliance of Julia. She has an amazing capacity to read, understand, and apply difficult concepts. She’ll read a commentary on a biblical passage and simply light up! She’ll talk with me about it… “You know what’s interesting!!! …” and follow it up with an in depth monologue about amazing concepts that I never would have even thought to think about. And what’s even more amazing is the way she’s able to teach these concepts. We’ll be driving down the road and she’ll see some neat clouds and draw Eli’s attention to how amazing God’s creation is. Or she’ll make a lesson out of Eli not wanting to do some sort of household chore and turning it into an analogy lesson of sin and how it affects us. And everything ultimately leads back to how amazing Heaven will be.
So, what do I do with this? I’m called to be the spiritual leader of my family right? And doesn’t 1st Timothy 2:12 say “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet”? Does that mean that Julia SHOULDN’T use the knowledge she has to teach others? Does that mean that I need to find some way to man up and solely take over any family teaching of Eli that’s going on? Here are my thoughts on this…
Being a spiritual leader doesn’t mean you have to DO EVERYTHING. A leader is an organizer and someone who sets vision. A good leader will work to encourage and bring out the talents in the people he works with. A good leader would not pass up the chance to use all the resources at his disposal. In my case, this means that if my wife is a spiritual genius, it will be ridiculous of me to not encourage her to to teach people (including my son and me) whatever she can!
To address the Timothy verse…does this really mean that women should not teach any men? What if they are wise? That seems a little counter-intuitive to me?! If you do more in-depth research into the Timothy passage, you’ll find it can be misleading if read wrong.
The fact that Paul says, “I do not permit” is an important distinction to note. This shows that he is not sharing a missive from God that is a universal command which must be adhered to by all for the end of time. Rather, he is simply sharing what he is doing…at that time…in HIS ministry. This likely is a statement about his local church, and he chooses to share his experience with Timothy. These words show this is not a declaration of what is “sinful” or “wrong” but rather what is working for his ministry…at that time.
The phrase “to have authority over” comes from the work authenein. This is the ONLY time this word is used in the New Testament. The word normally used to say “authority” is exousia (which is used over 100 times). But Paul specifically does NOT use that word here. Exousia is used to mean legitimate or routine authority (what you normally think of). Authenein can be better understood as “dominating” or authority with a violent or sexual meaning. Paul is not saying that a woman shouldn’t “exercise authority” as you would generally think of it, but rather that she shouldn’t be forcefully dominating the relationship.
Later in the passage, to “remain quiet” is based on the greek word hesuchios. At first glance, this can easily be read to mean “quiet” as in…”without speaking or making noise”. However, through context in other passages where it appears, a more fitting understanding is “peaceable”, “undisturbing”, or “properly keeping one’s seat”. This is NOT saying “it is wrong for women to say anything in a church setting”…but rather that they should not cause a disturbance.
I believe one of the more important things to consider is to note the cultural significance of this passage. Paul wasn’t writing a letter to Timothy in the 21st century. This was going on 2000 years ago when times were much different. At that time, women were not educated…at all. So, imagine a scenario where uneducated women are causing a disruption at church by questioning the authority of men who WERE educated. Considering this perspective, Paul’s direction to Timothy is less a declaration for WOMEN to never speak or teach or have authority from that day until the end of time…and more of a call for order within the church and a reminder that if you’re going to teach, you should know what you’re talking about. Imagine if someone who wasn’t educated stood up in the middle of your church today and started challenging what the pastor (who went to seminary and has devoted his life to learning and teaching) was saying? I think Paul would send a letter to that person (man or women) telling them they needed to chill.
I do not for a minute think that if a modern day woman is educated in Biblical issues that it is “wrong” for her to teach other women, kids, or even men. On the contrary, I think it would be a travesty for a women to NOT use the gifts and intelligence God gave her to do so. Furthermore, there are plenty of times in the Bible where God used women to teach and have authority. There are countless examples where women are given spiritual gifts and talents which are meant to be used.
Here’s my challenge to you:
If your wife has spiritual insight, do not hinder her in any way from teaching. Rather, find ways to encourage her to share what she knows. It is very likely God is going to use her to teach YOU something great. Don’t stop there though…encourage her to pursue opportunities to use that gift. There are plenty of women AND men out there that can benefit from someone teaching them something. This could be through a formal bible study environment, a blog, or even just one-on-one conversations through relationships. If God has given your wife a gift, do what you can to help her use it!
Also…if you are in a situation where a women at church is teaching at some level…don’t get your back up or feel awkward…listen to what God is leading her to teach. You may learn something.