Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A son's inheritance

Linda leaned forward over her open Bible and glared at me. "So does this apply to me?"

We were reading from Ephesians where Paul used the metaphor of adoption to explain God's redemption. But the kicker for Linda was that Paul said "Because you are sons...."

As a new believer, Linda detested language which seemed to exclude her. The text appeared to be for men and raised her suspicions that Christianity was a sexist religion that wanted to shut her out.

I hastened to assure her that ancient texts said "son" but really mean "sons and daughters," so she was included. Her feathers smoothed and she settled back for the rest of the lesson.

But I may have been partly wrong in my answer to her. Although I am absolutely convinced that God does not prefer males over females, I have been challenged recently by an observation from Russell D. Moore in his book, Adopted for Life, to look at this text in a different way.

Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, points out that Paul could have included the Greek word for daughters had he meant to include daughters in his statement. So Paul, by Moore's thinking, said "sons" because he meant "sons."

I have to be honest. As I read Moore's opening statements, my feathers bristled a little bit. But Moore went on. In the ancient culture where Paul wrote, sons and daughters received different inheritances. Had Paul said "sons and daughters," his readers would have assigned different inheritance practices to each.

In other words, they'd have recognized the complete inheritance given to sons while then applying the limited inheritance to the daughters. So, to the ancient reader, God would have given different inheritance to sons and daughters.

They wouldn't have questioned that. In fact, it would have fit their understanding well.

But if Paul intended for them to know that both male and female in Christ got the son's inheritance, they would have understood better the full provision of God's redemption.

The ancients couldn't apply their cultural biases to God. Instead, they could see that God treated all like first-born sons - male and female.

We are all "sons" in God's design.

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