Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Are Ruth and Esther the Only Books for Women?

If you are familiar with my writing (and you probably aren't because no one reads this blog) then you'll realize I am meticulous, or at least try to be, about the words I use and the order in which I use them. In the title of this post you'll notice I used the word "for" instead of the word "about." Contemplate the difference between those two words and you'll see where this post is headed.

Ruth and Esther are not the only books for women. Nor is Proverbs 31 a chapter for women. They are each about women or have women as the main characters. There are some other women playing prominent roles throughout the Bible but for the sake of brevity (something with which I struggle) I'll just stick with the two or three I've chosen. 

There are two very serious and lingering problems among Americans professing to be Christians and each is connected to one gender but both are having impact on the other. 
  • Men are not being the spiritual leaders they need to be in their households. Is anyone debating that? I know I am definitely not where I need to be and my wife has communicated this to me very clearly. I write to you as someone repenting of that and now actively trying to mend that glaring and inexcusable mistake. My problem was that I was not in any real and substantive way playing a role in my wife's spiritual maturity. Oh I made sure we attended church and Bible study and I'm not living a double life... but I'm not feeding her. When Christ commands Peter, "feed my sheep" He's not saying, "don't commit premeditated homicide against my sheep." In other words, Christ was commanding Peter to be active in the growth and maturity of the flock. 
  • The second problem is that women, perhaps more than ever and perhaps not, have no discernment. Logically this is connected to the first problem. If the husbands aren't playing an active role in teaching their wives, in facilitating an atmosphere conducive to spiritual maturity and aren't setting an example of fervent prayer and yearning for God's word then it makes sense women would be susceptible to modern garbage. This doesn't excuse women from thinking critically about teachings but it does help explain it. 

I think where some of today's pervasive problem of women yearning for something more than the Bible comes from is that they're convinced the Bible is 64 books for men and 2 books and a chapter for women. But that's not the case at all! Think about it.

Proverbs 31 is as much for me, a man, as it is for a woman. A man can read Proverbs 31 and learn what a good woman looks like just as a woman can read Proverbs 31 and learn what a good woman looks like. A man sees that's a type of woman worth pursuing and woman sees that's a type of woman worth becoming. 

That passage isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

Ruth isn't even a story that only women can relate to. Do you honestly know a lot of women in those types of circumstances? Isn't the overarching theme of that story God's incredibly detailed care and control? Since Jesus (the ultimate redeemer) came from that line aren't we just blown away at His seeming preference to use imperfect people and imperfect circumstances to carry out His perfect will? To bring order out of chaos? That's the complete opposite of how our world operates. We take order and turn it into chaos.

Certainly there are themes or principles women will draw out of that text that are different than what men will. I can't relate to the mother/mother-in-law relationship. I don't know what it's like to lose a husband and be left kind of alone and without much hope. But that's not my point. The point is that Ruth offers more than just how women should treat their mother-in-laws.

Ruth isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

But what about Esther? She's such a strong and dynamic character. Surely her story is just for women. Surely only women can learn more about God through what Esther experienced. Doesn't it sound crazy when I say that? Doesn't it sound kinda sexist, too? 
"I don't need to read Esther. That's a girly book!" 
That is sexist! It's sexist and it's an attack on 2 Timothy 3... ALL scripture is profitable...And that means it's also an attack on God because I've deemed part of His inspired Word less important or at least less profitable than another part. 

Esther isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

Let's go at this from a different angle. Is 1 Timothy just for men? Is it just for pastors? Is it just for pastors who are planting a new church? I don't think anyone believes that. We all recognize that the veracity of that text makes it as relevant to 2nd century women in Asia as it does to 21st century church planters in Canada. 

1 Timothy isn't just for men or for women. It's for believers. 

The Bible is entirely for believers. It's not a gender specific book meant mostly for men and a couple bits thrown in for the ladies. It's all for the whole church. I can't neglect Ruth because I think it's a book about women any more than a woman can neglect Joshua because it's about a man (or because it's like 10 chapters of land being apportioned).

There's also probably a deeper problem going on among women and that is they are seeking a feelings-based faith rather than a knowledge-based faith. Christianity is very much a knowledge-based faith. 1 John was written as a way to test whether or not you're truly saved. John uses the word "know" 32 times and specifically and explicitly in 1 John 4:13
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
This doesn't mean only smart people are Christians. It means all we are and all we do is based on the knowledge of who God is, what He has done and what He has told us to do. God doesn't change. Does anything change more often than your feelings and emotions? How then can we base the assurance of our salvation on something so unstable and subjective? God lovingly gives us His Word to edify us. It's all we need. Every single word is profitable.

Can you imagine how uncertain and terrifying it would be if instead of "know" John used the word "feel"? Yikes! What good is our faith if it's resting on something so wobbly? So we can't conduct our lives based on feelings. We obviously have feelings and emotions and they are perfectly fine and normal but they aren't the foundation for our faith and not something on which we base our assurance.

"But Tim, my favorite female author makes me feel really good."

So what? What does that matter? It doesn't matter how she makes you feel. What matters is whether or not you're actively pursuing God. If I only listened to men who affirmed me in my obstinate ways (like not being the spiritual leader for my wife) then I'd be wrong. It's one thing for a fellow dude to say, "Tim, I've been there too. Let's hold one another accountable and fix this. We're both sinning!" and quite another to say, "Tim, you're not alone in this. I know how you feel. I too wish my wife do XYZ to increase her spiritual maturity on her own."

I'd feel better about the second conversation. I'd feel waaaayyy better. But I'd still be wrong and still not have rectified the problem! So what good did my feelings do? In fact, my feelings kept me complacent and kept me from God. Yikes!

There's such a danger in going outside the Bible. Virtually every false religion in the world today is based on some vision, dream or revelation they claim to have received from Jesus. When we go outside the Bible for security and comfort, we're not pursuing God. We're simply not. I know they make people feel good and happy but they're not from God. Ladies, if you hear some woman claim she's received a vision from God or a revelation from God or anything like that, you need to run. There's nothing good that will happen from that point on. You're in the midst of a deeply confused person or an evil person. 

Either Scripture is our authority, or it's not. There's no middle ground. Lots of people will say they believe Scripture is the authority but then they gobble up some sappy devotional written by a woman claiming God spoke to her and she wrote it down and then cling to that book for comfort. Scripture is the authority on heaven until the next con artist lies about his or his kid's trip to heaven and swindles the gullible public out of millions. Scripture is the authority on sex until some nice talking young guy talks about his struggles with homosexuality and then all of a sudden the Bible is outdated. Scripture is the authority on who God is until His word disagrees with you.

I strongly encourage everyone to believe that ALL Scripture is profitable and Scripture alone is the authority. Without a doubt the #1 problem in the American church is the battle over the sufficiency of Scripture.


  1. Tim, I think Women want/need to hear from the the pulpit about biblical
    Womanhood. Esther, Ruth and Proverbs 31 are so captivating to
    me because I want to learn all I can about biblical womanhood.
    Sadly, I feel like the church has been silent on biblical
    roles for both men and women. In a culture where families are
    falling apart we need to hear good teaching on this. I realize though that
    my spiritual growth is ultimately up to me making the decision to study God's word
    and let it convict my heart:-) Good points just thought I'd throw a female perspective in there:-)

    1. That may be true to some degree. I just don't think the Bible really says much at all about manhood or womanhood specifically. There are only a few select passages where specific instruction is given to either gender.
      Ultimately we seek to emulate God's character. We are made aware of it in the Old Testament and it's illustrated for us in the New Testament in Christ. We become better men and women or husbands and wives by becoming more like Christ.
      But I think there's room and need for those connections and applications to be made for people.
      E.g. Christ laid down His life for His bride (the church) and so husbands should be that in love with their wives that they are willing to do everything Christ did (teach, lead, protect, serve and die) for His bride.