Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15
8I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (NIV)
This is a tough passage that has been used to hurt people over the years. When we read passages in Scripture, we must be careful not to given them an interpretation that conflicts with other passages in the Bible. When there is an apparent clash, we must look even more closely at the context in which the passage was written.
The first verse in today’s reading is to remind us when we pray, that our attitude in prayer is very important. The early Christians adopted the Jewish tradition of raising one’s hands during prayer. But when we go to pray, our relationship with other can have an impact on our prayer life. This touches on what Jesus spoke of during the sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5:23-24, we read Jesus saying: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Then Paul begins to address women which is the tough part of this passage. We must remember that Paul is writing to Timothy who is establishing a new congregation in an area. And the passage is written against the backdrops of both the Jewish and Greek background. While the Jewish tradition gave women a better place in life than other cultures, they were still considered in a very low position. In the Jewish tradition, women had a very prominent role in the household, but not much more. In Jewish tradition, men came to synagogue to learn while women simply came to hear.
In the Greek culture, women did not go out alone. They lived a very confined life if they were a respectable woman. They had their own quarters in the home which only the husband could enter. They were given little to do in society.
When we look at these two backdrops, we see that Paul is putting forth a standard that some would call temporary when we look at the whole of Scripture. If the new congregation of believers had women living into the freedom Christ has offered them, it would have caused the people of the community to label the early church as simply being a place where immoral and loose people gather.
Paul’s real views on women can be found in other passages. It is in Galatians that Paul sums up his best theology when he writes in Galatians 25-29:
“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
Paul honored many women in his letters and looked for the leadership of women throughout his ministry. And we see that Paul says that these are his commands. He uses the term “I” several times to show that it is his wishes. In one of the other letters of Paul, he even says, commands he is giving come from him and not the Lord. But is zealous for the early church and wants it to succeed. And there are times in our live where we give up our rights temporarily to reach others for Christ. Having worked with many new church starts in Florida, I see that first impressions are so critical to reaching people. We want to welcome people in love and not be what some would called “in your face” with our beliefs. Christ over and over talked about how we are to serve and not be served, even if we are due the honor of being served.
We have been given great freedom in Christ, but Paul warns that we are not to use our freedom to sin or to push people away from Christ. Paul says in Galatians 5:13 that we have been set free to serve.
This passage has been used wrongly to keep women out of serving God through the centuries. But when we look at the whole of Scripture, God is calling us all to serve where God has prepared that service. We must never read this passage as a barrier to women to serve. These instructions were given to a group seeking to grow a new congregation with Timothy as its pastor to reach people for Christ the best way they could. We reach people by coming alongside them and loving them.
Have there been times in your life that your did not demand your right so that someone might be lifted up and made to feel good? How do you present yourself to the world as a Christian?
It is good to reflect on the life we project from time to time.
Blessings and Peace