I’ll never forget the time, as she in hospice and weeks away from passing, when my maternal grandmother admitted to me, through tears, that she was afraid she was becoming a bad Christian. She was referring to the aging process, and how she could become impatient and angry, or judgmental. No doubt she was always a rather intense person, but she was concerned in a new way. I am fully confident that my grandmother remained a faithful Christian to the end, but she was pointing out something that many others going through the aging process can identify with. As we age, we can struggle. Sometimes we hear about an older person who “has no filter,” or “doesn’t care anymore.” Do you have an older relative that no one wants to be around because they are so negative? How can you avoid becoming that person?
In the previous post, we saw how men can age with grace and dignity. But what about women? As we continue looking at what Paul has to say to various groups in the church in his letter to Titus, in chapter 2, verse 3 he talks to the older women. What that means is that, older women, you matter! How you live will be an example for the younger people in the church.
First, he says the older women should be reverent in the way they live.
Reverent? This is pertaining to being devoted to a proper expression of religious beliefs—devout, pious, religious.” (Louw & Nida) Just as he did with the older men, note how Paul is connecting their beliefs to the way they live. In both cases, there is a direct and important relationship between their belief and their life choices. Sound doctrine leads to right living. Or in this case, reverence. They are to practice their faith in Jesus.
And when they do, Paul goes on to describe what they will look like.
They will not be slanderers. This is the Greek word diabolos – which is a word that has a connotation of something being of the devil. In this context it is referring to speech, such as slander, gossip. Gossip can ruin a group. Older people should set the example by keeping confidences, by being encouraging and uplifting in their speech.
Next he says that the older women should not be addicted to much wine. Clean water in that society was hard to get, so wine was everywhere, and as with our society, people could overdo it. Some people have said that Jesus changing water in wine or starting the practice of communion must not have been using alcohol, but grape juice, something with little or no alcohol content. But clearly it was addictive and could lead to drunkenness. So the point is not the wine, but the addiction. Christians should not be addicted to anything.
Finally, a great summary for the women. Teach what is good. There’s that word “teach” again. This is a theme popping up numerous times as we have seen in the previous posts about Titus 2:1-10. Older women, you are to teach. And when you think of teaching, Paul is not thinking of creating lessons for Sunday School classes. Some of you might think, “I’m not a teacher.” But the reality is that you all teach. Yes, some teach in a more formal way in a class setting, but everyone teaches in many other ways, especially through your life choices, your example.
So who are you teaching? The church needs you! Who do you mentor? Who is your Titus? Who are you having an impact on, even in a very informal way?
In 2:4 Paul describes what they should teach, and as you’ll see, Paul is not talking about a classroom. The NIV 1984 edition uses the word “train.” This means: “To instruct someone to behave in a wise and becoming manner.” (Louw & Nida) Paul is not talking about sitting in a classroom to receive knowledge. Training implies action.
Training in our American concept can have a negative connotation of mindless obedience. Almost brainwashing. We do this with dog training. We take them to obedience school so that that obey perfectly almost every time. Is this what Paul is talking about? Creating robots? No. Instead, he is talking about older women helping younger women to creating godly habits, practices.
Paul then lists what the older women are to teach the younger women. Rather than go into detail examining each point, we can summarize Paul as saying that if the older women set the example and live like Jesus, they are then to teach the younger women to live like Jesus too.
And what will that look like? They are to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled (again the idea of being “sensible” or “moderate,” as we have seen in Titus 1 and 2). Paul says he wants the older women to teach the younger to be pure, busy at home, kind, and to be subject to their husbands. Why? So that no one will malign the word of God. What does that mean? “Malign the word”?
If the Christians in the church behave according to the pattern of life of Jesus, with purity, kindness, love, self-control, and so on, not only will they be living the best possible life that can be lived, they will be practicing what they preach. They will be consistent. They will not be hypocritical. And no one will be able to say otherwise. Remember that Crete was an unruly place, and these Cretan Christians more than likely were going through a change from living the old Cretan way to now living the Jesus way. And their friends, family and neighbors were watching. If the Christians were hypocritical, saying they were now living like Jesus but actually living the old Cretan way, the people in their community would have cause to accuse the Christians of being hypocritical, and thus to say that the word, the message about Jesus, was a sham. In other words, how you and I live should be in line with what we say we believe. Our life choices are the most important way we share the good news about Jesus. This is what Paul wants the older women to teach the younger. Don’t just believe in Jesus. Live like he lived.
I do want us to look a bit more closely at a few phrases in Paul’s list. There were two phrases that might sound offensive to contemporary ears: “Busy at home” and “subject to husbands.” Before we get offended, we have to remember context. Paul is speaking to a first century Greco-Roman culture that was super patriarchal. He is not saying anything here that would have been surprising to them. Instead, he is reflecting exactly what that culture was like, in the area of the role of women in marriage. He knows that the church is in a precarious position, as it was brand new and very different from the culture in Crete. So the Christians in the church need to be cautious about how different they are. For now Paul wants them to focus on being different in their behavior, choosing to live blameless lives. It seems that Paul does not believe the Christians and the church are at a place where they could lead societal change such as equality for women, or the eradication of slavery, which we will get to later in this series on Titus 2:1-10. Instead, Paul maintains what were cultural norms of marginalization of women and slaves, instead asking the church to focus on living blameless lives.