My previous post was the first of a two-part series on the Bible’s description of the ideal elderly man and woman. This description is found in Titus 2:1-5, and with that first post I covered the passage’s description of the ideal elderly man. Now, with this second post, I’ll cover the description of the ideal elderly woman.
I’ll go ahead and quote the entire passage here, but the description of the woman begins in verse 3 and ends in verse 5. Paul says to Titus:
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (N.K.J.V.)
We see here that the first thing Paul says about godly, elderly women is that they should be “reverent in behavior.” The Greek word that is translated as “reverent” is hagiasmos. It’s a word that carries with it the idea of purification, sanctification, and holiness. This explains the King James rendering: “behavior as becometh holiness.” The teaching is that the elderly woman’s life should be marked by personal holiness in all areas.
Second, godly, elderly women should be “not slanderers.” Slander is a false statement made that damages another person’s reputation. The key word in that definition is “false.” Basically, old women shouldn’t spread lies that hurt other people. The N.A.S.V. bluntly translates it: “not malicious gossips.” Obviously, God doesn’t want anyone to be a malicious gossip, but it would seem that older women are particular susceptible to this sin.
Third, godly, elderly women should be “not given to much wine.” While it is allowable for an elderly woman (or an elderly man, for that matter) to enjoy some wine, the privilege must not be abused or used to excess. Other translations translate the phrase as “enslaved to much wine,” “slaves to drink,” or “addicted to much wine.” What makes this particular part of Paul’s description so interesting is the fact that we normally associate older men, more than older women, with having problems in the area of enjoying alcoholic beverages too much.
Fourth, godly, elderly women should be “teachers of good things.” At first glance these words seem to contradict what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, where he writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach.” However, the apparent contradiction disappears completely when we understand that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 applies to a church setting while Titus 2:3 applies to a non-church setting. Still, with this understood, just what exactly should elderly women teach? And to whom should they teach it? Paul gives these answers in the remaining two verses of the passage.
In verse 4, he says that the older women should admonish (encourage, train, teach) the young women. So that answers the question of the identity of the students the older women should teach. But what should the older women teach the younger women? Seven specific lessons are listed, and I dare say that if older women don’t take up the assignment of teaching these lessons, the young women most likely won’t learn them. The world certainly isn’t about to start teaching these lessons!
Lesson #1: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women “to love their husbands.” Whereas movies, books, and t.v. shows promote the idea of “love at first sight,” “finding your soul mate,” and other such mush and gush, the Bible indicates that a wife can actually be taught to love her husband. What a stark contrast this is to the depiction of the bitter old women who despises her husband and encourages young girls to either avoid marriage altogether or at least keep their husbands in line.
Lesson #2: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women “to love their children.” We might ask, “Does such a thing even need to be taught? After all, don’t all mothers love their children?” I think what Paul is stressing with these opening two lessons is that once a woman marries and becomes a mother, her priorities must change. Her life should no longer be ruled by selfish ambitions and personal goals. Instead, everything about it must now be filtered through her love for her husband and her love for her child. If that means that she must make some sacrifices for them, so be it. If it means that she must put her desires and agenda on the back burner, so be it. Love involves more than a sweet saying on a Hallmark card. It involves actions and service.
Lesson #3: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women “to be discreet.” The Greek word used here is sophron, and it can also be rightly translated as “sober,” “sober-minded,” or “temperate.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines it as: “of sound mind, self-controlled.” The N.A.S.V. and H.C.S. both go with “sensible.” Somewhere in all that you’ll catch Paul’s drift. This lesson is a good one for any young woman to learn because, let’s face it, young women (and young men too) are oftentimes not sober-minded, self-controlled, and sensible.
Lesson #4: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women “to be chaste.” To be chaste is to be pure, especially in terms of sexual activity. The older woman should teach the young woman the dangers of not only premarital sex but also post-marital adultery. This lesson closely aligns itself with the previous one about being discreet, sound-minded, and self-controlled. Nothing hurts a woman more than her being sexually loose and promiscuous.
Lesson #5: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women to be “homemakers.” It isn’t hard to understand that being a good homemaker is part and parcel to loving one’s husband and one’s children. Frankly, I can think of few lessons that are more anathema to the young women of today than learning to be good homemakers. The modern woman cares little for learning how to cook, clean the house, do the laundry, sew, take care of the kids, etc. She is much too career driven for such old-fashioned endeavors.
Lesson #6: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women to be “good.” The Greek word used here is agathos, a common word that is used to describe a general goodness in character and manner of being. At the risk of sounding trite, perhaps this “good” can best be defined as being the opposite of “bad.” Because each woman (like each man) is born with the sinful nature of Adam, she doesn’t have to be taught to be bad. Sin comes naturally to born sinners. She does, however, (again, like the man) have to be taught to be good.
Lesson #7: The godly, elderly women should teach the younger women to be “obedient to their own husbands.” While this particular lesson is rarely popular with the modern woman, the Bible is clear and consistent on the subject. In Genesis 3:16, God says to Eve, “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” (N.L.T.). Ephesians 5:22 says: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord” (N.K.J.V.). Colossians 3:18 says: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (N.K.J.V.). 1 Peter 3:1 says: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands…” (N.K.J.V.). Finally, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul says, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” I purposefully cited that 1 Corinthians 11:3 reference last because it’s the one that proves that submission doesn’t imply inferiority. God the Son isn’t inferior to God the Father, and yet He still submits the headship of God the Father. Likewise, the wife isn’t inferior to the husband, but the equality doesn’t cancel out God-ordained natural hierarchy and order to the home.
Well, that closes out not only the seven lessons that elderly women are supposed to teach younger women but also the passage’s description of the elderly woman. As was the case with the description of the elderly man, this description cannot be fully met apart from a saving relationship with Jesus and a deep commitment to Him. This kind of life doesn’t just happen or naturally fall into place. It has to be worked at and cultivated, and it’s tragic that more elderly women aren’t willing to rise to the challenge.
And now let me finish up this post and this two-part series by mentioning one final thing about this passage of Titus 2:1-5. Please notice that Paul, at the close of verse 5, gives the reason for why it’s so important that the older women teach all these lessons to the younger women. He says they should do this, “…that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Blasphemy is defined as speech that denigrates, dishonors, discredits, or defames God and His word. Therefore, the teaching is that behavior — either from the older women or the younger women — that contradicts Titus 2:3-5 is nothing less than blasphemous. This means that Titus 2:1-5 isn’t a “take it or leave it” passage. To the contrary, it is incalculably important in God’s grand design for how life on earth is to be lived, and when we ignore the passage, explain it away, or rebel against it, we do so to our own detriment.