In many ways, our society’s norms and values are quite different from those found in the Bible, particularly in regard to the role and responsibilities of women. Paul instructed Titus to teach the older women about what they were to teach to the younger women. These lessons are still needed today.
“Older women likewise are to be… teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:3-5).
Paul mentions seven lessons the older women were to teach to the younger women. Let us consider each one briefly.
The Older Women Must Teach the Young Women to…
Love their Husbands – It is interesting that the younger women are to be taught to love their husbands. Surely a wife loves her husband when she marries him. But maintaining and developing this love is something that takes effort. Too many marriages fall apart because couples have grown apart. Divorces often occur because people “fall out of love.” Jesus gave only one lawful cause for which one could put away his (or her) spouse – fornication (Matthew 19:9). The older women must teach and encourage the young women to continue to love their husbands – even when it is difficult, even when he is not all that he should be, and even when her friends are mocking and disparaging her husband as well as their own.
Love their Children – Most women who have children will honestly say that they love their children. But the fact that the older women were to teach the young women to love their children implies that Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) has a certain type of love in mind. When he wrote to the brethren in Thessalonica, he used the love a mother has and shows toward her child to illustrate his concern for them. “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). This type of personal, nurturing affection and attention is what the older women were to teach the young women to practice. The young women must be taught to avoid the characteristics of the ostrich who abandons and neglects her young and treats them “as if they were not hers,” because she is too concerned with other matters that she believes to be important (Job 39:13-18).
Be Sensible – The word sensible means to be self-controlled or sober-minded. Young women, like anyone else, can be led into sin and to forsake their God-given responsibilities when they fail to be self-controlled and sober-minded. Paul warned of those who would “enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses” (2 Timothy 3:6). All Christians are warned: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The older women must teach the young women to exercise control over their actions, thoughts, and emotions so that they will not become easy targets for the devil.
Be Pure – This word here means chaste or modest. This involves “chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:2), by which she is trying to bring glory to God, not to herself. Paul and Peter both warn about immodesty in dress, as this is a common area in which women fail to live up to God’s standard of modesty. “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10; cf. 1 Peter 3:3). It is common for worldly women to judge themselves and others based upon the clothes that they wear. But the older women must teach the young women that expensive, fancy, and revealing clothing is not important. Instead, they must teach the young women to focus on developing “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).
Be Workers at Home – The question of whether or not a wife may work outside the home is one that can generate passionate debate from those on both sides. I will save that discussion for another time. But before we can begin to consider that question, we must first understand that the Bible plainly teaches that a woman’s primary responsibilities are domestic. Although the “excellent wife” of Proverbs 31 is not described as having a career like most modern women in our society have, she was certainly not idle (Proverbs 31:27). She kept herself busy by working with her hands (v. 14), providing food for her household (v. 15), making clothes for her family and to sell to others (v. 13,19,21-22,24), making purchases for the household (v. 16), and helping those in need (v. 20). The older women must teach the young women about these domestic responsibilities in order to help train them to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5).
Be Kind – Tabitha is an example of a woman who was “abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36). Kindness involves showing love and doing good toward others. When Paul discussed the care of certain widows, he described the character of one who would be worthy of help: “Having a reputation for good works… if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5:10). Humility is involved in this because in order to show kindness, a woman must “regard [others] as more important” than herself, and not “look out for [her] own personal interest, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). The older women must teach the young women to show kindness and do good to others.
Be Subject to Their Own Husbands – The thought that a woman is to be subject to her husband is ridiculed and attacked by many in our society. Women are taught by society that there is no such thing as different roles for men and women, despite the fact that the Scriptures describe distinct roles for husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-25). Many believe than a woman can be the head of a household over a man, even though the Scriptures teach us that she must be in submission to him (Colossians 3:18). The older women must teach the young women to submit to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1), respect them (Ephesians 5:33), and fulfill the role of “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
Those who would fall into the category of the “older women” have a serious responsibility. The younger women are not going to learn these lessons from our society, from their peers, or from the modern books on marriage, parenting, and womanhood. But God still wants the young women to learn and develop these qualities. As a man, and a preacher, I can teach the truth on these things and it can be helpful. But any effort made by me or other men cannot compare with a faithful older woman teaching, mentoring, and showing by example.