What’s Wrong with Women’s Bible Studies?
It was the first week of our new little mom’s group. Blankets on the floor, snacks in the baggies, coffee cups set high on the table. While the babies crawled around our feet, I looked around at my tired mama friends trying to think of something else (besides our kids) to talk about. We tossed around some ideas, but eventually decided to begin a Bible study together. It was about time! I was good and ready to dive into a good theological discussion with some friends. Raising little children doesn’t always leave much time for adult conversation, especially conversations about the really important matters of faith. Excited, I bought the little paperback devotional book as soon as I made it home that afternoon. We would read the first chapter and talk about it next week. Soon enough, I was ready with my highlighter, Bible, and crisp new study booklet. During nap time in the quiet afternoon, I opened that little book written for women just like me.
I read through the whole chapter like a child waiting to open her birthday present. And then... it just ended. Ugh. That was it? I tried to read it again, thinking maybe I missed something. “How did I feel about that?” the study question asked. It was a nice little story about someone, somewhere, doing something—and apparently, this lady was really good at it since she made it into the first chapter of this book. But, I was expecting something else.
Disappointed, thinking we would have to start another search for a different women’s Bible study book, I met my mama friends again the following week. Prepared to offer my condolences, I barely parted my lips to speak. But before I could make any sound, an excited squeal came from my left. “Oh this is so good! I’m so glad we started this!” Shutting my mouth, I was shocked into silence.
So, week after week, I read through this women’s Bible study for the sake of my friends. They seemed to enjoy it. They wanted to keep reading. Maybe I just didn’t understand what the study was really trying to do for us. So I kept quiet, listened, and watched my friends.
Then, about five weeks in, I saw it. We read a Bible verse or story, we meditated on it with the study, then we prayed together, as was prescribed. Dumbfounded, I finally realized why these overwhelmed mamas couldn’t put down this little book. Through knowledge and prayer and discussion, this study intended to guide us in holiness. Between the lines, this study assumed we should become righteous just like these Biblical examples. Secretly, of course, we were not these good women. Shamefully, we remained guilty week after week. But those were not the discussions we had here—because this study attempted to make us just a little better.
Of course, we wanted to be better! An easier life with the husband? Obedient children? Relaxed and calm no matter what happened? Who wouldn’t want that? But this women’s Bible study was missing the point of the Bible; that God gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. The Bible isn’t about me.
A Bible study can have many purposes, there are many fascinating avenues to study in the Scriptures. But a study about women being good, righteous, and perfect is nonsense unless it tells the story of Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, the revealed story from God points to one Person—His Son. In the beginning, God’s “good” was ruined by His unbelieving creatures. Yet, God promised that a child would come to make it “good” again. A man walked on the earth Who was completely righteous. He never sinned, yet gave His life as a ransom for many. This man rose from the dead, being the righteous Son of God. In the Revelation of the end of all things, calm quiet perfection surrounds the Throne of the victorious Son. There, He has clothed everyone in His white garments, declaring them perfect, too. And the good, righteous, perfect story of our faith is inseparable from the story of Jesus Christ.
Here is where our study failed to teach the Word of God. The stories and verses were taken from the Bible, for sure, but the stories were not understood in light of Christ. In an effort to speak to women, the story began and ended with women. The words were ripped from their Christocentric purpose and simply placed over the mess of my own life. Ultimately, this Bible study only pointed to me. I was responsible for making a good change. I was the one who must learn how to act righteous. I was master of my own perfection. Even if our stories gave lip service to Jesus, this was not a study about Him. This was all about me.
The day I couldn’t even hear Christ’s story, was the day I was no longer quiet for the sake of my friends. This had become something other than a study about God’s life-giving Word-made-flesh. Here, there was no comfort in the face of our failure. Here there was fear and judgment, behind polite smiles, of course. Here, Jesus and His work just wasn’t enough.
But, ladies, this is not the story of the Bible. This is not our story.
My friends, yesterday, today and forever, your story is all about Christ. You certainly are a terrible mother, an inattentive wife, an overindulgent gossip, an impatient and fearful wreck of a woman. I know you are beaten down with “Martha” tasks and “Mary” ears. Your “servant heart” is weak and bitter. And yet, your story is still all about Christ. He listens. He walked. He was not afraid. He died for the all things that you’ll never fix in your women’s Bible study. He Jesus rose from the dead, to live forever, and promises you will be next. Your story was and is always about Christ.