“Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Timothy 2:8-15
Oh boy! If there was ever a controversial passage of scripture. Particularly for today’s women this passage of scripture would definitely make the list. I have to admit my first instinct and reaction to reading such scripture is the impulse to dress up in some sexy dress, put on some fine jewelry and flaunt myself at a church service. Not because I enjoy flaunting myself, no the impulse is out of rebellious spit for Paul’s writing. Lord please have mercy on me for I am a sinner among sinners.
When I reads Paul’s instructions at face value and literally they cause a sense of anger in me. Where is the anger coming from? It is a sense of anger that this scripture is saying that as a women I am inferior to a man. I get the image of a women held in a prison, the men are the ones holding her captive. The men are the ones keeping her from living a free life. They are oppressing her. It is true that abuse of power and abusive authority can cause this imbalance of roles and power. In the cause of abusive authority the depiction of a man holding a helpless women captive is a reality. This does in deed happen in our world. God does not approve of such things. But Pauls instruction to men and women in the church as not meant to be abuse of authority or power. Quit the opposite I believe they are meant to creat order, efficiency and protect men and women alike.
What is the purpose of church and a worship service? The purpose is to worship God. The whole focus is Jesus. We spend all week working and focusing on all kinds of things. We try to focus on Jesus but then we have something due at work, a child that is sick or our car breaks down. We very much have real tasks and work to accomplish. So when we take a sabbath to solely focus on Jesus, when we set apart designated time to worship our Lord and King, we attempt to lay aside all the distractions of this world. Laying aside all the distractions of this world is not easy. Not easy at all. Paul’s letter is giving instruction on how to operate a worship service in a way that will help men and women alike lay aside all the things of this world and worship God.
What do women think about when they dress themselves and ready themselves? We often very much worry about our appearance. We worry about our hair, our makeup, our jewelry and whether we are wearing the latest fashion. Similarly I have never meet a women that does not struggle with comparing themselves with other women. We all do it. We see another women and think why can’t my hair be like hers. But going to a church worship service is not supposed to be about our outward appearance. It is about what is on the inside. It is about worshiping our God. I believe this is the point Paul is trying to make. Don’t worry about the outside. Worry about the inside. Don’t dress yourself and adore yourself in ways that will tempt other women to jealousy. Does this mean I have to wear a sack cloth to church? Well no but it probably means getting ready for church should be the easiest thing. Don’t worry about the outside and be modest. That is that.
But what about the instructions about men and women’s roles? Have you ever meet a man that was not drawn to beautiful women? Men tend to be visual. I would even argue that a beautiful women wearing sack cloth catches the attention of men. Even when it is unwanted. Women may not want to be catching the attention of men but they will. So instead of men going to the worship service to worship God and focus on Jesus they will be distracted by said beautiful women. This happens regardless of what women do but how a women behaves and conducts herself can help men focus on Jesus or do the opposite and turn the focus away from Jesus. Paul’s instructions are giving women practical advice on how to help men better focus on Jesus at church. Be submissive, quiet, and modest.
When I think about reason for why Paul says what he says I no longer find his words demeaning to women or oppressive. I see them as wise words. Words I should take to heart. For when I go to church I do not what women to be comparing themselves to me. I do not want men fixing there eyes on me. No we go to church to worship Jesus and focus on God. We all play a part in helping people fix there eyes on Jesus. Amen.