“Stupid” was not allowed in our house. Describing another this way, either as a taunt or an angry outburst, fell into the unacceptable category. However, there are times when it perfectly fits. Choosing a sinful lifestyle, refusing to seek understanding through faith, leading others astray—these are not just unwise moves. They are stupid.
Paul loved his son in the faith, Timothy. His letters are replete with admonitions for spiritual development, effective leadership, and discernment. He didn’t just send “attaboys” and fill the space with happy talk. The effort to write was undoubtedly great, and he made the most of the time and the parchment.
Paul did not know we would be reading his thoughts on last days centuries later; but the breathing out of scripture through Paul makes it applicable as even now we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, we have been living in the last days from the moment Jesus ascended into heaven. And certainly, the nature of mankind has not reversed course but continues down a path of resistance and disobedience.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
—2 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV
The verses in this second letter to Timothy, referring specifically to last days, always get head nods and amens when read aloud. I remember as a young girl seeing older ones giving verbal assent to the children being “disobedient to their parents”. They believed firmly all the negative aspects applied to the 50s and 60s. Cultural deterioration today makes the colors of those phrases more vibrant. We have opportunities to broadly apply each aspect, believing the time surely is at hand. Neither you nor I know when the Father will dispatch the Son to take us home. We keep thinking we feel those birth pangs; but like false labor, it just isn’t His time yet. However, we can learn from the verses and strive to live out His truth.
2 Timothy 3:6-7 is troublesome to us as women. No matter how you parse the verbs or rearrange the sentences, it is clear there are some women who fall prey to false teachers. The emphasis is really on the malevolent nature of the predators; nevertheless, there is a responsibility on the part of the preyed upon. Let’s stop just for a little while and consider these women. Were they believers? Were they simply promiscuous women? Were they unwittingly inviting trouble into their homes?
Paul is writing to Timothy as a leader of his congregation. Perhaps, in his warning about apostate teachers he is asking him to protect some of the women in his flock; perhaps it is just a general cultural statement. I don’t know; but I do know we can take the principle and apply it to our own lives and circles of influence.
“Gullible, weak, foolish” are all words used in various translations to describe the female victims of these despicable men. They have a propensity for being taken. As one woman blogger said, “Women, you have a target on your back.” In my professional career I helped others create niche strategies we called target marketing: identify, then go deep. These men were years away from these programs, but certainly adept. They weaseled their way into the lives of their market. They were insidious, charming, and not unlike the serpent in the garden—shiny and slimy, all at the same time!
One of my dear friends is a mentor and Bible teacher for women 25-35. She loves the Word of God and is energized by the opportunity to share truth with these classes. Last year several women asked her opinion of Fifty Shades of Gray. The frequent mentions led her to do a special study of the book for the class. She was shocked to know many in the group not only were familiar with the novel, but had read the entire trilogy. The greater shock came when many asked, “What is wrong with these books? Our friends all read them and don’t see anything bad. It is what life is like for many.”
These are women who profess Christ, study the word weekly, and desire fellowship with other Christians. Yet they saw nothing wrong with the perversion in these stories.
We may cluck our tongues because we don’t immerse ourselves in flagrantly immoral and degrading literature. We may rightly say to our younger sisters, “Don’t be stupid—this is killing you spiritually.” However, we must carefully assess our own wants and wanton desires as well.
2 Timothy 3:7 further describes the women as burdened by sin and wanting to hear truths which promise either relief or rationalization. They may have been believers who still carried the heaviness of past sin, unable to truly experience the freedom of God’s grace through Jesus Christ; or they may have been actively engaged in sinful life choices. Either way, the hope and promise of release made them vulnerable to false teaching.
Let’s bring this home. These women looked for truth in all the wrong places. In advertising “New and Improved” still sells. It may be the same old product, but the blazing banner across the front of the package draws our eye. Today, there is danger in looking for new and improved truth. Our ears are tickled by innovative formulas for understanding God’s word: tricky acronyms, and simplistic approaches which will be more appealing. We look at Eric Barton’s stage of truth and move the players around, bringing emotion and experience not only to the foreground, but to the near exclusion of all others. We redefine worship as extreme expressions, exciting (loud) music, and prayer which sounds like Hollywood narration. We are gullible when it comes to fake news about the Good News.
We in the Womenary community deeply desire to know God and to be equipped for ministry. We must guard our hearts and minds against cultural attacks on truth. We must stand behind the shield of faith to protect against those fiery darts. We are vulnerable to the culture even as we seek God’s ways. We are not impervious to the effects of social beliefs and norms. We are not immune to compromises which weaken our discernment and create cracks in the armor.
We certainly don’t want to define ourselves as gullible, and definitely not weak or foolish, do we? But we can’t be lazy. We can’t be stupid. The world, the flesh, and the devil don’t work part-time jobs; they are always on the prowl. We must ever be on the alert. When Christian motivational speakers, authors, bloggers pique our interest and call us to follow, we must carefully assess their message. When our Christian friends recommend the hottest new self-help program which slaps a Bible verse on the cover but hides humanistic or even Eastern thought in the text, we must have the maturity to say, “no, thanks.”
In Biblical days false teachers drew men and women to the town square. Some even came to homes where women gathered together. None of us would knowingly open our door to false teachers, and definitely not to strangers; but we readily invite the internet, TV, podcasts, “Christian” books, and even Zoom conference calls with eagerness, excited to stretch our minds and keep on learning. Scripture tells us our minds are the gateway to our actions. We spin daydreams which result in lives spun out of control. Wise women see through the façade, slamming the door on questionable materials which lead us away from faithful living.
I live in a log cabin. This fall my travel schedule kept me away regularly. Coming home, I raise the garage door and go inside. I rarely open the front door. Before Christmas I stepped out to hang a wreath and was shocked—there were cobwebs everywhere! The house was literally covered. I didn’t know because I was unaware. I let the spiders take over the exterior of my house while I was away. I didn’t catch the first one because I didn’t keep an eye on the exterior.
We as Christian women can too easily find the world’s web covering us. Our lack of discernment weaves a net which entangles us. We need to keep free from deceit by being ever vigilant.
As we strive for lives which reflect our redemption through Jesus Christ we can:
Understand who we are in Jesus Christ: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10. ESV).
Recognize we walk with a target on our backs: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).
Establish a systematic approach for godly living: Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care (Ecclesiastes 12:9, ESV).
Create a community of wise women who surround and support: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Loisand your mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV).
Enjoy the freedom of faith: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1Peter 2:16, ESV).
Put “gullible, weak, stupid” to rest under the power of the Holy Spirit: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV).
As the older woman my parting words are those of care and concern. Walk carefully in a culture which wars against biblical values and virtues with charming, clever approaches. Be wise, sweet women. Lean on us who are a bit ahead on the path as we stand on the shoulders of women before us. Let us share our lessons, our experiences, and our stories. Most of all, allow us to open our hearts to you as we expand on the faithfulness of God amidst our failings, the goodness of God when life fell apart, and the hope which can only come through the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.