Month: November 2018

A Voice


“Voice” is a hot-button issue in our culture today. Everyone wants a voice. They want not just to speak, but to be heard, to be listened to. We even have a hit TV show, “The Voice,” that lets us live through the contestants who get to sing on a national stage and compete for a chance for their voice to be heard. But what does the Bible say about voice? What does our culture crave so much and how does Scripture answer that craving?

The Bible has a lot to say on the topic, actually. More than you might think on the surface. Themes run all throughout Scripture that remind followers of God to care for the poor and oppressed, the orphans and widows and refugees, the sorts of people who don’t actually have the ability to stand up and speak for themselves or who wouldn’t be heard if they did.

Waaaayyyyy back in the Old Testament a man named Job begged God for someone to listen to him and hear his cry for help. Go read Job chapter 19, 9, or 16 and you’ll see that what he asks for, is a voice. Everyone around him won’t listen, won’t help, won’t encourage him. He begs God for someone to testify on his behalf, to be his witness in heaven. He wants an arbiter to stand up for him and be his voice in a heavenly court he has no access to.

The book of Esther deals with voice too. The young woman the book was named after had no choice in losing her parents, she had no power to resist people who kept her away from her homeland and forced her into the King’s harem. So when the Lord gave her the place of queen, she used her voice in the royal court to speak for those who couldn’t. Even if speaking up would cost her life, Esther spoke to the king to beg him to save her people. She knew what it was like not to have a voice, so she used hers to speak for others who couldn’t.

If you were to sit down with me I could talk with you for days about Abigail in 1 Samuel 25, or Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and 2, or Mary, or Elizabeth. I could talk to you about how God’s heart as revealed in Scripture truly does bless the meek—those who do not have strength or set aside their strength to do the right thing.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Jesus taught. And Philippians 2:5-11 tell us that Jesus himself became meek as an example to us, and set aside his divine power in many ways on earth so that he could be a humble servant rather than a proud king. He set aside his privilege only to inherit the earth as his kingdom at the end of all things. But while he was here on earth, he became meek for a very important reason…

Jesus became a voice for the meek.

While he could have claimed any power or honor or treatment he wanted, he used his influence often to speak for those with no voice.

In John 4, Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. She was an outcast in every sense of the word. No one in her community listened to her or respected her. She even went to the well during the hottest part of the day to avoid people. But Jesus came to her. And he told her to give him a drink. Not surprised by an order from a man, but confused that a good Jewish man would even speak to her, she asked him why he would accept water from her, a Samaritan outcast. But he flipped the script. Instead of demanding or demeaning, he offered her something. He offered her a gift of eternal abundant life. After their conversation, she believed he was truly the Son of God. She ran into town to bring everyone to Jesus to hear the good news that he had come.

Every person in her town listened to her story. They believed her. And they came to Jesus. Because of her testimony, they believed. No longer would they remember her as the woman who’d had five husbands. They would remember her as the one who brought them to the Lord. Jesus changed her life and gave her a voice and value in her town as a daughter of God. How often do we give our women voices like that? How often do they get to share their stories with us in a safe space in our church without fear of being shunned or treated differently, when what they really have to say is a testimony of how the Lord has worked mightily in their lives?

Jesus did the same thing again for a women with no voice in Luke 7:36-50. Everyone called her a ‘sinful woman,’ and she says not a single word in her own story. She comes to worship Jesus, weeping over him, offering up what must have been her most precious possession to anoint him, washing his feet as an act of service and love, and drying them with her hair. The self-righteous at the table begin mumbling that Jesus can’t be a prophet, or he would know who she was and wouldn’t let her touch him in public. She may have been a prostitute in her past, or she may just have been an unmarried woman people whispered about as she went about her day on her own. We don’t know. But the story tells us that a man named Simon, who was certainly whispering at the table, had her story already fixed in his head. He doesn’t care to know more about her, much less to admire her act of worship.

But Jesus tells a different story, and speaks for the woman. He tells Simon a parable, about a man who was forgiven much and a man who was forgiven little. Jesus compares the woman to the men in his story, and explains to Simon that her great love and her act of worship should be an example to him. Jesus spoke for her and told her story in a way that humanized her and honored her act of worship rather than demeaned her. In the Mark 14 and Matthew 26 accounts of the story, we even learn that Jesus made a promise that people will share her story around the world wherever the gospel is preached in memory of her. Talk about giving her a voice!

The bleeding woman story in Luke 8 is also a favorite of mine. She is the picture of a voiceless woman. Sick and shamed for much of her life, she pushed through a crowd to get her one shot at reaching Jesus. She must not have expected him to talk to her or even acknowledge her because she approached him from behind and just touched the edge of his garment. She was immediately healed. Mission accomplished. But not for Jesus. He wouldn’t let her slink away out of the crowd like she was used to. He asked who touched him, and she tried to hide but saw that she couldn’t. She came forward trembling, afraid, falling down in front of him.

But Jesus prompted her to speak. So she told her testimony, of her sickness, her desire to get to Jesus, and her miraculous healing. Jesus gave her his spotlight to share her story and praise him with it. And after she finishes, he calls her daughter.


Can you imagine the other names this woman must have been called? She was shunned. Poor. Broken. Unclean. Weak. Sick. But Jesus called her daughter, and in a place where all could hear. He loved her. He speaks his peace over her, commends her faith, and sends her off to a new and healed life. He gave her a voice and a new beginning. She was heard, accepted, and healed.

And isn’t that what we really mean when we say we want a voice? We want someone to listen. We want someone to accept us with our good and our bad. We want to be healed. Only Jesus can truly give that to us. Only he can truly heal. But we should also follow his example to lift up the people around us who can’t tell their own stories, who aren’t listened to, who are broken or silent or ignored or dismissed. They may not have a voice, but we have one we can share.

We all have our circles of influence—our friends, small groups, classes, co-workers. Some may care to listen to what we have to say more than others. But we all have our small spotlights that we live in with some who respect us and love us.

Think about who isn’t allowed in those circles, or who would feel like an outcast there. Can you find ways to speak up for them? Help them tell their story like Jesus did for the woman who anointed him. Let them tell their own story by your invitation, like Jesus did for the bleeding woman. Lead them to Jesus and give them a platform to share their testimony like Jesus did for the woman at the well. Think about your church interactions especially. Do people with different education levels, ethnic backgrounds, or income brackets all have a place to be heard and to grow in your church? How many of them are on staff? How many get to share with the church on a regular basis? Are there ways they aren’t made to feel comfortable in sharing their struggles? How can you be Jesus to them and share your influence on their behalf?

One of my new favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes goes like this:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

He was talking about voice for the powerless and abused, the voice of those who suffer injustice. Use your power like Jesus did to give a voice to others. Become meek like he did and use what strength you have to stand up for others. When we give our voice away, when we are truly meek, we inherit the Kingdom together.