For background, read here.
I was really thankful for the following comments from Tim Bayly, because they sparked a wonderful impromptu Bible Study and discussion this morning. I had written, in the context of serving God being our highest calling, that:
Even the heathen can be kitchen wives.
Tim quoted this and then said:
Yes, and the woman who doesn't provide for her own is worse than a pagan: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).
Of course, I took this to mean that he was referring to Carolyn Custis James since, after all, she was under discussion and several had taken issue with her statement that she was not a "kitchen wife". (See here.)
I found this particular application of 1 Timothy 5:8 to be quite novel. More about that later. Tim finished his comments with:
Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is unbelief. And for women as for men, orthopraxy is defined by God in His Word according to one's sexuality. In other words, we can't obey God's calling to each of us while denying the part of His calling that has particular application to us as man or woman. This is the heart of this discussion, but the one thing Rebecca and her feminist sisterhood will never quite address. Somehow, it always seems to get lost in the shuffle.
But in the Bible, it's at the center of New Testament ethics. None of this docetic, gnostic, disembodied, non-incarnate, transcendent, larger-than-life, gender-neutered, asexual gobbledygook for the Apostles. Oh no.
Rather, gender-specific words, gender-specific commands, gender-specific actions...
Well...yes and no.
The center of New Testament ethics? I have never, ever heard it put that way before. Usually I have heard the center of NT ethics defined as loving God with all our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves --- without any mention of our sexuality.
At any rate, it seems obvious to me that not every command is gender-specific. We cannot go through our Bibles and mark every command with either pink or blue ink, much as some people (sadly, myself included when I feel particularly weak or overwhelmed) might like to do so. "Love your enemies" --- is that pink or blue? Isn't it enough for my husband to obey it without me having to struggle with that one as well? What about "Love one another"? What about "Pray without ceasing"? What about "Put on the full armor of God"? When I obey "Pray without ceasing", do I get to do it in a different, feminine sort of way? Do I get some sort of pass on "be strong and courageous" because I'm a weaker vessel?
One of my former pastors actually met some wives who claimed that they didn't have to love their husbands. After all, the Bible said, "Husbands, love your wives." Women did not have that sort of a command. Yes, older women were to teach younger women how to love their husbands, but there was never a command anywhere that wives had to apply these lessons.
"What about 'love your neighbor as yourself'?" asked the pastor. The women looked at him as if he'd taken leave of his senses.
"Prove to us," they said, "that this is addressed to women. In the context, there is no indication that women were the audience. We are not feminists and we don't believe in claiming that everything written to men applies to us."
Apparently they saw a lot more gender-specific commands and actions than I do.
But on to what, unless I am reading him incorrectly, is Tim Bayly's assertion that not being a kitchen wife means one is not providing for one's own. When I asked my husband what he thought this verse meant (without prejudicing him with Tim's new interpretation/application) he --- as I should have known he would --- encouraged us all to read it in context. I'd like to encourage everyone to do the same. We read 1 Timothy 5:3-16, although it might be helpful to read the wider context as well.
We were very convicted, especially since we have widows in our extended family. While none of them are homeless and starving, what does God require of us? What would honor Him? Do we truly share His passion for justice and mercy?
At the end of our wonderful discussion, that also included some broader applications of what it meant to provide for one's family, I asked my husband if he thought this might apply to a woman who did not do the cooking for her family. (I explained that, to my knowledge, no one was starving due to her lack of cooking; obviously they were all eating food cooked by someone.) I wish I'd had my camera with me to snap the incredulous look on his face. He actually thought this was yet another example of my bizarre sense of humor!
"Did you really get that out of the passage?" he asked.
Um, no...but I tend to be rather simple at times, and rather concrete in my thinking. However, I've heard a pretty good number of sermons on that passage, and none of them have ever applied the passage in the way that Tim Bayly did. I'm not saying he's wrong; I'm just saying that this is a new application to me and raises a lot of questions. Unfortunately, those questions are not ones that he wants to see asked on his blog.