For a variety of reasons, including the random way that speaking schedules work, I often end up being the instructor for either mother’s day or father’s day and such was the case today. One of the challenges of talking about mother’s day in a Bible class is that the Bible does not know of anything like mother’s day, which was not actually a thing until the late 19th and early 20th century. While in the United States Mother’s Day comes on the second Sunday of May, in Thailand Mother’s Day is typically assigned to the birthday of the queen regnant, which suggests the sort of politics where rulers are viewed as the parents of the nation as a whole. Suffice it to say, though, that Mother’s Day was not a day that existed in biblical societies, and so in talking about Mother’s Day, one inevitably ends up talking about mothers.
One of my favorite angles, personally, into Mother’s Day is looking at the day and its rituals (which vary by family) from the perspective of the biblical view of observances. We are used to thinking about the Bible as being about that which is commanded on the one hand and that which is forbidden on the other hand. This is, in fact, a natural view of law in general and biblical law in particular. But that which is prohibited and that which is commanded only make a small amount of what the Bible deals with. A great deal of life, hopefully most of it, deals with that which is permitted and where it is only how one does it that is prohibited or commanded. A great deal of people want the Bible to deal more with God’s permissible will, that which He allows people a great deal of latitude to live and to learn subject to various boundaries and limitations. Such is the case with Mother’s Day, which is certainly allowed but nowhere commanded. (Though, I should note, if you fail to meet your family’s expectations regarding how the day is to be kept, then that is going to be an issue.)
So, if Mother’s Day is not in the Bible itself, then it is mothers that one must discuss. The Bible contains a great many stories about mothers that show the full range of how it is that mothers behave in the Bible. Sometimes, as is the case with Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, mothers are viewed as heroic figures of faith whose belief opens up opportunities for their male relatives. At times, as is the case with Bathsheba, mothers help preserve the kingdom for their children. One wonders what would have happened to Solomon had Bathsheba (and Nathan the prophet) not brought what Adonijah was doing to try to establish the kingdom for himself to David so that it could be countered. When one is talking about motherhood in the Bible, one cannot neglect the lessons one can learn from Mary in how it is like to be the mother of the Savior, and to love a child that one cannot hope to understand. There is even a heroic mother-in-law in the Bible, namely Naomi, whose shrewd wisdom allowed Ruth to find the princely Boaz as a husband, and who has been greatly blessed as a result.