I was very excited when the recent Sherlock Holmes movie came out since I have been a big fan of the Conan Doyle stories since I was a child. In one of my favorite Holmes' cases, The Abbey Grange, Holmes meets a woman whose husband has been murdered, a woman who displayed various marks and bruises that indicated she was herself a victim of abuse. When the great detective starts to piece together what actually happened, he says to her, "I am convinced that you are a much-tried woman." In today's Bible reading, there are stories about two "much-tried" women, Leah (Gen. 30-31) and the widow who gave all she could (Mark 12).
Each time I read the story of Leah I feel greater sorrow for her plight. She was betrothed to a man who did not love her, overshadowed by a younger, shapelier, prettier sister. The Lord saw that "she was hated" and "opened her womb," leading Leah to believe that "now my husband will love me" (Gen. 29:31-32). But this was not to be. By the next chapter of Genesis, Leah literally has to pay in order to have relations with Jacob (30:16). No woman deserves to be treated like Leah was treated.
In Mark 12, there is another "much-tried" woman - the widow who "put in everything she had, all she had to live on" in the offering box at the temple. Previously I have looked at this story as a stirring example of sacrifice commended to the disciples by Jesus. But it is also possible to see this account as a condemnation of the temple system, which was corrupt (earlier in the chapter Jesus denounced what took place in the temple), and that corruption was financed by people who were in dire poverty. Whether this account illustrates that corruption or not, plenty of other passages in Scripture describe those who would take advantage of widows (Deut. 24:17; Isa. 10:2; James 1:27, for example).
Treating women like a commodity is a fundamental insult to God, who made "male and female" in His image (Gen. 1:27). Today we need heroes, not fictional ones like Sherlock Holmes, but real heroes - real men - who know the value of women, and treat them as "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7).