Early this week I saw a blog post that deeply upset me. It stated that “God’s will for young women is to marry, bear children, and guide the home” and then it referenced 1 Timothy 5:14. I cringed. I am sick and tired of Christians pulling verses out of context and using them to promote their own agenda. Conservative and progressive Christians do this. But I tend to see it more in Conservative circles, only because those are the circles that I’m part of.
God’s Will For You and Me
So, let’s get one thing straight: we get too caught up in trying to figure out “God’s will for us.” I get it. I’m a planner. And I think too many Christians (myself, too, at times) wrongly believe that there is some big, magical plan that we’re supposed to know (but don’t), and that we need to walk on eggshells or else we’ll mess up this big magical plan. We’ll marry the wrong person. We’ll go to the wrong school. We’ll take the wrong job.
Stop. Stop right there. Because I don’t think any of those things are possible to do.
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he was asked: “What is the greatest commandment?” Meaning, in all of the universe, what is the greatest rule. His answer was quite simple, yet profound: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Go check out the full account in Matthew 22). So guys, this means that GOD HIMSELF said that the basis for all laws is to 1) love God and 2) love others.
The more “detailed” rules, if you will, relate back to these and show us what actions are or are not loving. For example, taking the Lord’s name in vain (Commandment #2) is not loving God; lying to your neighbor (Commandment #8) is not loving your neighbor. Literally, every rule can be traced back to loving God and loving our neighbor.
So, God’s will for us is quite simple: we must love him and love others. His will for us is to love Him and love others. Y’all, literally, that simple.
Now, I fully believe God can call people clearly to certain fields (hello, Jonah and Paul!) and in those situations, it’s loving to follow his lead. Take my life, for example: did I experience an audible voice of God telling me to be a lawyer? No. But, God has given me the gifts and talents necessary to do the job, he has provided opportunities for me to do this job, and I have great peace when doing this job. I feel that practicing law is my calling. But, I could also fully serve God has a kindergarten teacher, a doctor, a chef, a stay at home mom, or anything else. So, do I believe that God’s will for women is to only get married or only have kids or only stay home? Absolutely not! The only verse in the New Testament that lends itself to this is severely taken out of context.
The Danger of Taking Scripture Out of Context
We first need to recognize what the Bible is, beyond the Sunday school version of “God’s word.” The Bible is a book. It’s composed of 66 books written by dozens of authors over thousands of years and across continents. The majority of these books are letters written from people to certain people to address certain issues at that time. These letters were then chosen by councils (that’s right, by men) to comprise our Holy Book. There were over 100 other letters and books that at one time or another were considered for the Bible but didn’t make the cut. In fact, different Christian denominations (such as the Catholic Church, the Christian Church in Ethiopia, and the Protestant Church) have a different variation of books in their Bible. Even though the books were organized by men, I (and the majority of Christians) believed that the words were “divinely inspired.” That is, God ensured that the books that were supposed to be in the Bible were in it.
But, here’s another problem: the Bible wasn’t written in English (shocker!) The New Testament was written in ancient Greek. That’s a problem, because as anyone who speaks 2 languages knows, certain norms, words, and customs are very difficult to translate to other languages (the easiest example is that in Greek there are 4 different words for love, meaning 4 different kinds of relationships, but in English we only have 1 word for love but the meaning changes based on context).
So let’s talk about this Timothy verse. First, you need to read verses in the context of the whole book and chapter. What’s the title of the Chapter? “Widows, Elders, and Slaves.” I have chapter 5 of the NIV (modern English) and KJV pasted below:
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame.8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor,especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.”[b] 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprovebefore everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.Keep yourself pure.
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.
10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.
16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.
23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
So in context, the WHOLE FLIPPING MEANING OF THAT VERSE CHANGES PEOPLE!!!!