|What Scripture Says|
Elisabeth Elliot: This is what God says. This is the pattern for us godly women. Now how can we do this?
Lisa Barry: That's a question Elisabeth Elliot will pose to her special guest, Gayle Sommers, on today's Gateway To Joy program. All this week, they've been discussing the issues that concern mothers. Things like the relationship of a husband and wife and the difference in having to work and wanting to work. We all know there are situations where a family would have to go on welfare if the mother didn't work, but this isn't the case for most. Today, they'll look at what the scriptures say about a mother's priorities. If you'd like to follow along, take out your Bible and open it to the book of Titus, specifically Chapter Two. I think you'll appreciate the wisdom found in the verses. And now stay with us for an interesting discussion right here on Gateway To Joy. Here's Elisabeth.
Elisabeth Elliot: You are loved with an everlasting love. That's what the Bible says. And underneath are the everlasting arms. This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot talking again today with my friend, Gayle Sommers, about the subject of mothers and whether or not to work. I want to ask you, Gayle, what would you say is the cornerstone passage of Scripture that bears on this subject?
Gayle Sommers: Well, I would say that it has to be Titus, the letter that Paul wrote to Titus. In chapter 2, let's just read the first verse of chapter two here, because this explains what Paul had on his mind when he wrote what he did to Titus. Chapter 2 in Titus: "Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." That to me says that what follows here is how are you going to teach your people to live out their lives in a way that lines up with the doctrine that we believe? That was the purpose that Paul had in mind in writing to Titus.
He goes on to talk about what to teach the older men, and in verse 3 he talks about what to teach the older women and that is really the paragraph I am going to look at right now. It says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, to teach what is good, then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will belittle the Word of God."
Now I think here, very conveniently, Paul has given us a good description of what those of us who fall in this category are supposed to be doing with our time. If we are wondering if we are supposed to live in this age, we can't do much better than to look right here in verses 4 and 5. The older women have a responsibility to help the younger women to understand that this is what you are supposed to do, this is how life is supposed to look to you. You are to love your husband and your children, you are to be self-controlled and pure, you are to be busy at home. He spells it out that way. It really isn't left to how do we feel in the 20th Century. We are to live out Christian doctrine. Paul says that this is how it is supposed to go. You teach people and they teach each other.
Elisabeth Elliot: Okay. I dish out this advice all the time, but I feel as if people can write me off because they say, "Well, you come from a generation a thousand years ago. You don't really know the hard realities of life today." But you told us the other day that you are 40, but you are an older woman, aren't you? If you teach in a college as you described yesterday, this means that you do have influence on younger women; and sometimes I've reminded audiences that every single woman in this audience is an older woman. If you are 20, you are old. You have a tremendously powerful influence on a 15-year-old. So, this passage is one that I don't think any of us can escape. We are all meant to set an example for younger women. Go on and tell us what else Paul is talking about here.
Gayle Sommers: Well, I think that the thing to go for right away is that most women today would get extremely squeamish with the phrase "to be busy at home." Now that would make a lot of women very squeamish, and the first thing that they would want to say (and I've heard women say it lots of times) is that Paul was writing to a very different culture from ours--that women in that culture would never have expected to do anything else. They wouldn't have jobs. They didn't have education. There would never have been a thought to anything but staying at home--being busy at home, taking care of domestic matters. What I want to say in response to that is that it really doesn't matter. It doesn't really matter what was going on in that culture in that century and in that time.
Elisabeth Elliot: Why do you say that, Gayle?
Gayle Sommers: Paul has--this, of course, is the hot question--this is what women will go for every time. What kind of authority does Paul have? Why should we listen to Paul? Of course people were quite happy to listen to Paul until the feminist movement began to suggest notions about the role of women that were directly opposite to what Paul had to say. Let's face it, Paul is the one who gives most all of the teaching about the role of women. Peter gives a little bit, and Jesus doesn't really talk that much about the role of men and women. It was left up to the Apostle Paul.
So, when the feminist movement came along and started suggesting that women's roles were very different from what Paul was saying, unfortunately, I am afraid, Christians started running to the writings of Paul to see how they could lessen his authority and disconnect us from what he had to say.
Elisabeth Elliot: His authority was apostolic.
Gayle Sommers: Right. So, they started saying things like, "He was speaking from his background as a Rabbi, he was speaking from a patriarchal society, and of course he was limited in that, so he spoke what he knew." Those of us who are so enlightened about the 20th Century now, we can look back on poor, pitiful Paul and we can just sort of break up what has authority and what doesn't. This patriarchal stuff now, now that we know that the patriarchal form was rubbish, we can sort of junk what Paul had to say that suggests or touches on that theme and go from there. We're not really talking about somebody who wants to know about the roles of men and women, we are talking about a person who has real questions about how to interpret the Bible.
Are we at liberty to take something that Paul has written, and from the 20th Century look down on it and say, "This just can't be true for us." If we could do that about the role of women, we could do that about homosexuals, which of course we know some Christians want to do. We could then move onto a lot of other things Paul talked about, like the blood of redemption, the blood of the lamb.
Elisabeth Elliot: Just take whatever you are comfortable with, right? People are always feeling as if they must feel comfortable, and they say, "Well, I don't know about this guy Paul. I don't really feel very comfortable with him. I think he was sort of a male chauvinist."
Gayle Sommers: Yes, exactly right.
Elisabeth Elliot: I say to people who talk that way, "I don't think you have read Paul very carefully, because nobody was more appreciative of women and of what women did to contribute to his ministry. I think he had an amazing understanding that would be beyond the scope of a bachelor or widower, or whatever he was when he wrote his epistles." He was apparently a single man at that time. Obviously, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and you and I take what he says very seriously, so this passage in Titus is the cornerstone passage, isn't it?
Gayle Sommers: Well, I believe it is. There is another passage in 1 Timothy that also speaks about the role of women in kind of an indirect way, but I actually think this is an extremely helpful passage to those of us who want to get serious about living godly lives in this age. It has to do with how the church in that day drew up the list of widows, those women for whom the church was responsible, those women who had no other family members to take care of them. And in doing that, Paul gives a very clear and helpful summation about what the life of an adult Christian should have looked like by the time she got to widowhood.
I think that that passage is one that we need not neglect. Let me just read it quickly here: "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over 60, has been faithful to her husband and is well-known for her good deeds--such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble, and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." What could be more helpful, what could be clearer than that? This is what the adult Christian woman should be doing with her life, so that by the time she is a widow and goes on the widow's list--of course that was a practical matter for Paul--but it is a helpful, everyday matter for us now.
Elisabeth Elliot: It is a summary, isn't it, of what a godly woman was expected to be doing in New Testament times. Should godly women be expected to be doing totally different things, are we not also responsible to take seriously what was the standard in those days? I am so grateful to you for your emphasis on the fact that this is what God says, this is the pattern for us godly women, now how can we do this? We are being told that it is impossible, it is unrealistic, and there's no way we can make it. But you have been encouraging us to believe that maybe God does have an answer.
And I have had some amazing testimonies from women who did not think that they could make it financially, yet after having read the Scriptures and wanting to submit themselves in obedience to God, they prayed and said, "Lord, is there another way? Can you show me some way that we can survive without my income?"
And it has just been amazing some of the stories that I have heard from women to whom God has shown a way that never entered their heads until they got down before Him and said, "Lord, I really want to obey you. I want to do anything you say. Now show me." God has shown them. The first thing I want to do when a woman says to me, "No way can I do it," I want to say, "Have you really tried God? I challenge you to trust God for a different answer."
Lisa Barry: I hope today's talk by Gayle and Elisabeth has helped you see your own situation in light of God's principles. The decisions you need to make concerning your children may not be easy, but you can rely on God to give you the wisdom you need if you ask him. I would also like to encourage you to get a cassette copy of this series entitled Called to be Mothers. It's one of the things we've included in a very timely Mother's Day packet. You'll receive a brand new book that includes hundreds of pages of Amy Carmichael's poetry called Mountain Breezes. Also, a study journal, Elisabeth Elliot's greeting card sampler, and heartwarming readings. It's all available for $30.00 in our Mother's Day Packet. To get yours, you can send that amount along with a note to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or you can call toll-free 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. On the Internet we're at gatewaytojoy.org. Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible and please pray for us that we will continue to do God's work in God's way. I'm Lisa Barry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll plan to join us again tomorrow when we meet again Gateway To Joy.