When I was seventeen years old, I read a book on the Proverbs 31 woman. I’ve no criticism to offer of the book. I think it was written by a godly woman who was pouring herself out in honoring God. I was electrified to discover a part of the Bible that seemed directly written for me, a female. It was the kind of discovery that felt like I was being given a template for life: no more mystery, no more puzzlement as I clumsily plowed through stuff I didn’t understand — the step-by-step handbook had arrived.
When I combined what I’d read from Proverbs 31 with the other parts of the Bible giving instructions to women, I almost wasn’t sure why I needed to read the rest of the Bible. Maybe my job was to camp out here. Certainly there was enough here to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I knew instinctively that I didn’t measure up to the standard of godliness that I was reading.
I’ve met a lot of churched women over the years, with varying views on these biblical passages for women. Some have developed a flinch and twitch when they hear parts of the Bible directed at women (often because those parts have been weaponized like a 195’s law-bomb against them). In contrast there are those who never talk about the Bible except to quote Titus 2 or 1 Peter 3, content to live there. And then there are some with a chip on their shoulder who just flat out refuse to allow the Bible to say what it says to women, doing feats of flexibility that twist the Bible up to the point that all blood flow has been cut off to certain parts. They just fall off as irrelevant, deemed wrong.
In the English department in college, there was the occasional lopping off parts of literature deemed harmful to women via critical gender studies. Who were these dead white guys to be telling us what good literature is, to be writing female characters for us? Why should enlightened women read such dregs, except to refute them? And for some, this has extended to God’s Word. If dead white guys can be cast off, why not dead Middle Eastern guys too?
But the Bible isn’t a trifle. It isn’t Gulliver’s Travels or Great Expectations. Its author is divine, not dead; perfect, not sinful. To read it is to be changed or judged, in some measure. We either come under it in full-stop submission, or we cast it aside as boring or harmful or stupid or nice. In unmitigated pride, we may even exploit it as its editor. And it isn’t indifferent toward us; it masters us willingly now or unwillingly later.
The God of the Bible won’t be suppressed to a few select passages directed toward women. He also won’t allow his daughters to cut off blood supply to the parts we don’t like very much. He demands all of himself for all of ourselves.