The Day a Kid Asked Me About “That Prostitute”

January 9, 2013 | 28 comments

We could have dwelt on the fact that this woman was involved in — how shall I say this delicately — “the hospitality industry.” The woman did, in fact, have her very own red-light district under her very own roof.

Says so, right there in the Bible, in the Book of Joshua —

“So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”

But there’s a certain sensitivity required for in-depth Bible study, especially when your Bible study companions are three fifth-graders.

So um, I, uh, stumbled a bit awkwardly when one of the girls, reading the words, stopped mid-sentence with her index finger glued to that one word–

“What’s a prostitute?” The 11-year-old girl looked me straight in the eye and lobbed the question into our tiny country-church Sunday School room.

“Well, um, it’s a, um, …,” I could feel the crimson rising in my cheeks. ” … it’s um, someone who … made some bad choices with her life. And uhhh … maybe you’ll want to ask one of your parents more about that when you get home.”

Yes, ask a parent. Good answer, Jennifer.

She looked back at me with slow, blinking eyes, while her finger stayed glued on the offending word.

“You ARE my parent.”

Oh, that Lydia. Always such a literalist.

I gave her a wide-eyed look from across the table, that one look that says  wordlessly: “We’ll talk about this in more detail when we get home, m’kay?”

But there was more. There was more than one reason why I didn’t want to dwell on the prostitute thing for too long. That’s because there’s way more to Rahab’s story than her job at the time.

In the end, her sin didn’t define her. Her Savior did.

“Children,” I said, clapping my hands together. “We’re going to depart from the Sunday School lesson plan here for a moment. Because I’d like you to turn to Matthew 1:5.”

The three children abandoned their half-eaten Cosmic Brownies and rustled the pages, racing toward the Gospels, eager to unwrap the mystery and perhaps sensing the excitement in my voice, eager to know why we were breaking the rules, or at least, the day’s lesson plan. I dare say the moment was a bit electric. I could feel the hair raising on the back of my neck, hopeful that they would behold the miracle of what God can do with the sinner, the outcast, the fringe-livers, the people who’ve lived out the unmentionables behind closed doors.

My good friend Jordan, age 11, raised his hand, volunteering to read the verse. I nodded my head, and held my breath, as he read the words for the rest of us:

“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was,” (he paused for dramatic effect) “Rahab.”

Suddenly, I had three sets of little eyes on me.

“Whoa. … That’s cool. Is that the … ?” Jordan asked.

I bobbed my head up and down, a smile widening across my whole face, feeling my heart swell in their discovery — and in my re-discovery. Like this was the first time I’d heard it myself, that Red-Light Rahab was an ancestor of my Jesus. I heard it like it was fresh news, hot off the press. “Yes, Jordan. Yes it is! It’s the same Rahab!” 

And, right then, we just sat in the gape-mouthed silence. For one moment, for one holy moment, the four of us stared at the words in Matthew 1, while remembering the words in Joshua 2. Three 11-year-old children and a 40-year-old, tongue-tied teacher could only sit in awe, and behold the miracle and the truth about life with Jesus:

No sin is too heinous
No mistake too grievous
No past too dark
No reputation too shady
No life too useless
To be important to the story of God.

For every “Joshua 2” of your life, there’s a “Matthew 1” story.  What’s yours?

by | January 9, 2013 | 28 comments


  1. Alicia

    Oh, Jennifer- how I love the places our kids take us- the truth they seek and the way Jesus shows Himself afresh to us through their nudges. I’m crazy about your Lydia.. she’s welcome to join me and my girls for Bible study any time she wants 🙂 Happy New Year

  2. Lori

    Oh…when I think of what He has forgiven me for. What a great lesson, they got it and so did we!

  3. kelliwoodford

    Yes. As a matter of fact, I am the “same Kelli.”
    But then again, I am *not* the same.

    Such a mighty mercy.
    Thank you for this, friend.

  4. Tracie

    I love this. So very much.

  5. Susan Stilwell

    Isn’t that connection awesome, Jennifer? And isn’t it great when you can connect those dots and watch eyes widen and mouths gape? I LOVE studying and teaching God’s Word!

    And the greatest truth we see woven throughout both testaments: God can and will redeem whatever we’re willing to trust Him with.

    HE IS GOOD 🙂

  6. Lynn Morrissey

    Jennifer, the sin that I thought was too heinous was abortion. That was my unforgivalbe sin. And then God (eighteen years after my confession to Him, but still unable to forgive my Rahab-self), took me to the ocean to give me a hands-on object lesson. There, as I gazed out on the overpowering expanse of water, stretching across the horizon of infiinty, He showed me where my sin of abortion was buried–in the ocean’s unfathomable depths–and from where it is impossible to retrieve it for inspection, punishment, and self-flaggelation. God buried it, covered it, and removed my sinful stain. Instead, amazingly, undeservedly, lavishly, He has baptized me in the ocean of HIs mercy and grace and washed me clean. Perhaps my story will always be filled with hallelujahs of thanksgiving, and oceans of praise. Thank you for asking us to share!

    • Terry McCarty

      You were teaching right from God”s own word, God bless you!

  7. Dana@DeathbyGreatWall

    I love this story. I love how our kids help us see God’s word with fresh eyes. Jennifer, Thanks for stopping by my blog today and pointing me to Deidre’s wonderful insightful writing. I look forward to reading her whole series.

  8. Deidra

    Rahab is my favorite, because I am so much like her…

  9. Abby

    Beautifully done Jennifer. As a Sunday School teacher I can relate. Ran into a similar situation when I was teaching about Potiphar’s wife and Joseph. Thanks for all that you share here, love the scripture you added to the stained glass (on facebook). ~ Abby

  10. Diana Trautwein

    Beautiful, Jennifer. And that Lydia – yeah, such a literalist. :>) (There is some discussion in scholarly circles these days that the word for prostitue could be translated inn-keeper. Interesting, huh? Doesn’t change anything in the Matthew passage, however, because those 1st century believers thought of her as exactly what you were trying to describe to your 5th graders.)

  11. alisa

    I love your writing!!! I was right there with you. How awesome to rediscover God’s Truths afresh and through the eyes of youngsters!

    Rahab was defined by her savior not her sin! Oh, if we could all get that! We would learn to walk under grace instead of law. We would allow our love for God to dictate our actions instead of tradition and conformity!

  12. Carol Hulin

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Although I’ve never been a prostitute, I’ve always felt like my sins excluded me from really bein a part of Jesus’s family….
    Maybe I can be after all…..

  13. Shaunie Friday

    Oh, Jennifer! You told that so well I was in the room and saw the light-bulbs of realization turn on right along with you! Such a beautiful moment, beautifully told, and a timeless truth caught in a moment those kids will never forget! Thank you for sharing this!!

  14. Sylvia R

    Oh, Jennifer, I love this story! I can relate on so many levels. And by the time I read your end statement-and-question, I was moved to grateful tears. We all need to see the Rahab in ourselves — in both Joshua 2 and Matthew 1. Utterly beautiful!

  15. kendal

    “For every “Joshua 2″ of your life, there’s a “Matthew 1″ story.” that should maybe be on a t-shirt or something. love.

  16. Kris

    This busted me wide open this morning, Jennifer. Maybe tears aren’t the proper response, but when I read grace, when I SEE grace, I weep. I can’t help it. What an awesome post–what a necessary reminder. Thank you, my friend.

  17. Jillie

    Oh Jennifer…In my 19th year of living, I ‘experienced’ about 10 years of ‘life’. I was so young and naive; or maybe just immature and stupid. A lot happened in that year. I was on the run from my strict and overbearing parents, and very determined to live my life my own way. I did a lot of things that resulted in (only) shame and disgrace. It has taken me YEARS to overcome…and I’m not yet sure whether I’ve totally forgiven myself. Yet I KNOW HE has forgiven me. One night, PRE-conversion, He spoke very clearly to me, saying, “You were made for better than this.” When that exact same statement was repeated to me by a friend at work, I began to believe it. She was older than me. And much wiser. She told me that I could say “No” to those who were seeking to bring me down. I began to say “No” to those things, and my new life began to take root. Although I didn’t come to know Christ until a few years later, I did begin to value myself more highly through this friend whom I now know GOD had sent into my life. I married a Christian man, although he was an ‘undercover agent for the Lord’ at that time in his own life…and the rest is history.
    I praise Jesus Christ for saving a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
    This is my Joshua 2…to…Matthew 1 story.

  18. floyd

    Amazing how God uses His little children to remind us of who He is and the power only He possesses. What a great story. You’ll have to put that one in her book and yours!

  19. Laura

    Jennifer, our little Bible study group just finished Kelly Minter’s study on Ruth, so the profundity of this is fresh for me. Bless you for the ways you give the Bible to the young ones. Praying for you and your family as you get ready for Haiti!

  20. Seth

    Good story, JDL. And… for alternative phrasing in the future… my grandfather used to call them “ladies of negotiable affections.”

    • Jillie

      Oh…that’s a good one, Seth. I’m going to have to remember that one!

  21. Megan Willome

    Needed this today. Feeling a little irredeemable.

  22. Susan DiMickele

    Love love love this. I am so into Rahab right now — she gets a whole chapter in my new book!

  23. Truly Bourne

    “… it’s um, someone who … made some bad choices with her life.” *sting* …sounds like me.
    …So incredibly thankful for God’s redemption! Thank you for sharing this sweet “aha!” and “Oh yeah” moment, Jennifer.

  24. shannon

    love it LOVE IT! It’s it amazing how HE turns us around?!

  25. David Rupert

    I remember when my son read about Balaam’s ass. Oh boy. You handled the question with real grace and honesty. And to make the connection to the lineage — amazing. yes, he can use just about anyone.

  26. Laura Marie

    So how did you define to them what a prostitute was?


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