Lessons from a Fictional Pizza Shop…
Imagine that you bought a little pizza shop. Equipped with the secret recipe for your authentic Italian grandma’s secret sauce, and a prime location, you were destined for success. Staffing seemed simple enough… the best person got the job. Men and women (even teenagers) proved themselves worthy of different positions and were based solely on their talents, skills, experiences, and interests. Looking around, nobody seemed more important than anybody else. Experience was something to be gained here… not coveted. Everyone was green as could be.
Given time, it was easy to see that this shop was destined to be a franchise and so you packed your bags and moved along, leaving it in the capable hands of the staff you’d carefully chosen. You knew that they could do it without you. They were a well oiled machine.
Well… the oil lasted for a little while…
Several months later, you received a disturbing phone call. Your face burned hot when it was reported to you that the once energetic, reliable, teenagers that you’d hired had gone rogue. They were whispering and gossiping about the management. They were making out in the cooler. They were crouching in corners eating entire pepperoni pizzas in secret. They were stealing from the cash registers and worse, they were targeting other teenagers and teaching them to follow suit. One, small, group of individuals was tearing the business apart.
Shaking your head over the phone you tried to figure out what had gone wrong. They’d been so faithful, so dynamic and upbeat, wanting to pitch in and be an active part of the team! But now they were like a poison bringing their selfishness and disrespect. Without your intervention it was going to topple.
So you carefully penned a letter to try to help the management sort it out. You detailed all of the changes and helpful hints that you thought they should address in your absence and on your behalf. You refined the recipes, and showed them a more efficient way to deep clean the pizza oven…. and then laid down the law on the teens in question.
You told the management to put them in their place, to knock them down a few pegs and deflate any and all pride that might have crept in due to immaturity. You may have actually stated, due to your lack of trust,
“I do not permit a teenager to manage the registers or have any leadership responsibilities. They need to learn a thing or two…”
You did it because those particular individuals were out of control and the business was suffering. You gave the women and men who had been taking the business seriously the clout to teach those teens how to be productive and respectful.
Now let’s say you retired 50 years later and stopped by that original pizza shop where it all began. I can see you, sitting in a booth with a cane and a slice and simply observing (Ahhh, the sauce is still your grandma’s!). The place is still what it was, but everything is different! The decor is hipster-esque. The kitchen is rife with new technology. And the clientele has responded and the lunch rush is hopping! While you can remember a time when two registers used to get you through quite nicely, there are five beautiful computer types up front and lines are building up behind each one. Sipping your diet Coke, you’d notice that despite the long line of customers, the younger staffers are sitting idly by. They might wipe tables or refill napkins, but they were not stepping in to assist with the obvious work load in front of them. The line went out the door. The cashiers and cooks scrambled. And customers gave the death stare.
You could see on their faces that the teens that knew exactly what to do, maybe even better than the ones who were in management. They wanted to help. It was in their eyes. They had energy. They were enthusiastic. They were well trained. They were smart. They cared. And the work that they were doing, while important at a lesser level, was not meeting the immediate needs at hand. For whatever reason, they didn’t feel like it was appropriate to pitch in. And I could also see that everyone was quite familiar with knowing that the pizza shop was ill equipped, though the materials were readily available. There simply wasn’t enough manpower. Nobody seemed to mind, save the frustrated customers who left hungry and with full intent to never return. They’d never know the flavor the pizza or the feeling of being in a thriving community. So they walked out… excluded… disappointed.
I can see your wrinkled, baffled expression in the booth. Why, in tarnation, wasn’t the entire staff participating in the work of keeping this business functioning properly?? At the end of the day, as they packed up and went home, you leaned out of your seat and approached the current manager. You asked directly,
“Why weren’t the teenagers helping? Why were they limiting their work to napkin dispensing, garbage removal, and table wiping?”
He blinked, wide eyed, and then he said,
“Ummm…. You told us not to let them.”
Coat donned, ready to head home, he approached a filing cabinet and retrieving a color coded and stapled “Policies and Procedures Manual” for how to run this particular business. In the packet happened to be recipes, specific instructions, business practices and a particular letter from you in which I you’d offered a blanketed and unspecific statement about how those in the teenage age range should not ever possess such responsibilities.
Stay with me.
Our imaginary experience directly relates to the Apostle Paul as he wrote his letter to Timothy regarding the church in Ephesus found in the letter of 1 Timothy. While I truly believe that God gave Paul the wisdom to advise, I also believe that Paul was responding to specific situations and advising accordingly, not necessarily putting down mandates that should be adhered to until the end of time. Is this heresy I am speaking? I hope not!
Take a look with me for a moment, will you?
Paul had planted a church, a thriving group of believers in Ephesus and then he had to leave, to move on and continue his ministry elsewhere. Within the patriarchal culture of the day, men were first to convert. It was only later that women took notice and craved participation. It was in and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that might do what their social circles had not done… to actually include them… as equals.
But their spiritual immaturity and previous experience in idol worship caused problems. Apparently, they were distorting basic gospel truths. Paul advised his protege, Timothy, how to handle such a specific disruption with a letter. Having no idea of the longstanding and permanent impact, he instructed that:
“Men should worship with hands raised”
“and that I should not suffer woman to be in authority over a man… she should be silent”
and in the context of measuring the “spirit of the law” against the “letter of the law” I’m asking myself why God might not want men to learn from women. Is it because men are smarter? Is it because men are intrinsically better at leadership? Is it because women would become eaten up with pride if they were given opportunities to do what they might naturally excel at?
(Please tell me that these suggestions seem as ridiculous to you as they do to me!)
And so here is my perspective… the typical decision makers, the elders, the deacons, the leaders, the men, are put into positions where they have to direct the ship without half of the information needed to to so in the ways that benefit everyone. A woman’s perspective seems dispensable, unnecessary but possibly helpful if “appropriate.” She waits while they endlessly discuss and weigh options. She is humble while they struggle with the newfound pride of their responsibility and position. She does less because they tell her that it is her calling to be subservient. She studies and God reveals mightily but they will never stand to gain what she has learned. He becomes prideful. She becomes impotent.
Could this possibly be God’s plan????
because it is all I currently see in evangelical churches…
Women are about a million miles away from actively participating in making the decisions that might shape the path that the church will go. What is most surprising to me is that women have fully accepted their “non-participation” status and even seem to have the attitude of,
“I’m not interested in the job.”
The truth is this: I don’t want to be the sole decision maker, but I know myself well enough to be aware that if I don’t get a say, and it doesn’t work out, resentment inevitably follows. Perhaps I am sinning with my attitude, but I believe that regardless of doling out my own personal opinions, I’d prefer a Holy Spirit filled, wise, and “feminine” rep that gets me better than they do to speak on my behalf. But she isn’t there and so we wait to see if the leaders will extend themselves enough to ask, to consider differing viewpoints, perhaps even to value mine and create spaces where it can be shared and respected.
Why is there this thousand mile divide when the Bible consistently includes and commends women who have leadership abilities? Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Priscilla, Junia, Nympha, Pheobe. You will never find a word of discouragement against them… only in these current days with our alive and well women…
How can this be???
Most often, the most “cherry picked” verse is utilized.
Here, Paul is giving his opinion as he says, “I do not permit…” which would be the same as if you laid out a rule in your pizza shop that said, “I do not permit teenagers…”
Take note that it isn’t worded,
“You should not permit for all of time as a standing rule…” but rather his current opinion based on specific circumstances. So what are the circumstances that Timothy is dealing with at the Ephesian church? Considering that we do not get specifics of the report given to Paul, we have to study the context clues to put into a clearer perspective.
(Hang tight for just a little longer on this! I’m going somewhere important in a minute!)
1 Timothy 1:3-7
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.“
I would surmise that they are dealing with individuals that are teaching false doctrine and striving to elevate themselves, which would corrupt the essence of the gospel. Could some of these stumbling blocks have been women? I wonder what negative experiences Paul had with certain women and what instructions he might have for those? We do get a bit of insight in 1 Timothy 5:11-15,
“But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan.”
In 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul speaks often to advise the church away from chaos to order. He speaks about the Lord’s Supper (as they were gorging themselves, getting drunk, and leaving one another behind). He warns the women to continue to operate within cultural boundaries and wear head coverings (as an uncovered head would lead to the assumption that she was a prostitute), and to stay away from anything, sin or not, that might cause another to stumble. He tells them that they no longer need to be circumcised, but should not eat meat offered to idols, and then adds that they can eat whatever they want because an idol is nothing. He advises them not to get married, but that women and men intrinsically need one another.
And…. He tells women (as well as men!) to learn in silence, not to leap into discussion rather and listening quietly first. Have you ever been in a group setting where an individual monopolizes the conversation, jumps in unexpectedly with questions, cutting off the person who is an expert on the subject? It’s so frustrating! But it is hard to contain one who is truly excited about the subject matter (I relate to this so well!).
It’s possible that women were completely and suddenly overly excited to have freedom in Christ. For the first time, she was being valued in wholeness, for her intellect, faith, and gifting, rather for her “son birthing” abilities.
She was late to the game and thriving in her newfound place at the feet of Jesus. He honored her for being a “learner” and eventually a “scholar” rather than simply a server….
I do not believe that Paul ever knew that his letter would stand the test of time while everything else changed according to culture shifts (ie: slavery, circumcision, meat offered to idols, head coverings, etc). I don’t believe that he had any intention that his few words on the subject would keep intelligent, Spirit filled, gifted, individuals from actively participating as leaders in the Body of Christ. I also believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that God is not a God of discrimination that gives a green light to female CEO’s and politicians but despises a teacher of the Bible within the church walls only.
There is much more to talk with you about but I will save it for my next installment. For now, have a slice of pizza and remember that God gives good gifts,
and He intends for us to use them with everything we have.
Might we learn to accept this as truth.