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A Wise Woman Listens More Than She Talks

One of the characters in my book Four Weeks grapples with what the Bible says about women and wives.  In this day and time, to suggest that women take a lesser role will get you a big old target painted on your back. But, another thought occurred to me today as I read the homework assignment for the class I am taking. In 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (King James Version):

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

At first read, this still gets my back up a little, but I then start reflecting on the many years I have been in churches and my observations of men and women, particularly in bible study or Sunday school settings. I noticed that when women talk in those settings, men don’t talk. They clam up and do not share their perspective unless forced to do so by the leader. Then, I thought about the dynamic in my workplace and observed something similar. When women talk, the men don’t. That means half the people in the room don’t contribute to the group learning. That is a loss for everyone.

Then, I started to think about the wise women in my life – the leaders and influencers. They don’t talk much. They listen a lot. They take in the conversation and maybe, at most, ask a few questions. Many times they don’t say anything until called upon. Then, very often, they make profound statements or great business decisions. These women intentionally take a backseat or submissive role in conversations. And we admire them for it and label it “wise.” Hmmm…

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Maybe the Apostle Paul was on to something when he set up the rule of women learning in silence and not usurping the authority of a man in a church setting. And in fact the Classic Amplified Bible puts the “church setting” qualifier in these verses:

11 Let a woman learn in quietness, in entire submissiveness. 12 I allow no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to remain in quietness and keep silence [in religious assemblies].

Maybe Paul knew about men’s tendency to clam up around talking women? Maybe he knew all about the innate power of a woman who chose to listen more than she talked?   

The church I attend now is led by a husband and wife team. I have great respect for both, and they have great respect for each other. Pastor Michelle is a powerful woman of God, and I believe that she is a powerful woman of God, in large part, because she listens more than she talks. She sits quietly and attentively when her husband preaches, but I am sure they have robust discussions on the way home. There are many people who don’t think women should have leadership roles or preach in the church, and they quote these verses in 1 Timothy as proof. I disagree. 

Pastor Michelle is a powerful Spirit-filled teacher, and when it is her turn to preach/teach, it is life changing. But, she is also wise enough to know that being overly assertive in her leadership style can have a damping effect on the participation of the men in the congregation. It is a delicate dance and requires her to listen carefully to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A wise spiritual mother nurtures and encourages all members of a church, both male and female. She knows when to listen and when to speak. And she knows when to let silence teach the lesson.