Titus 2:3-5 is, of course, the classic passage ordaining older women to teach younger women. Looking at the passage, we see that the bulk of the subject matter revolves around marriage and motherhood.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)
There’s a lot to unpack in these three verses, including the Lord’s expectations of those of us who are older women, and I want to carefully discuss the many points that Paul raises in future articles. In this article, however, I’d like to discuss the closing phrase, “that the word of God will not be dishonored.”
Although Paul put that thought at the end of his instructions for women, I believe we need its encouragement if we are to stand against the conventions of our culture by living as godly women. Other people — even professing Christians — will try to shame us for our obedience to Christ in marriage, so we need reminding that we adopt the attitudes and behaviors because we love the Lord and desire to honor Him.
I’ve always interpreted this phrase as saying that failure to live in accordance with Paul’s instructions for women would cause non-Christians to dishonor God. That understanding has some merit. If unbelievers have some understanding of what Scriptures teach, then certainly they would point to Christian women who live contrary to these instructions and rightly accuse them of hypocrisy. They would then wrongfully conclude that Christianity has no real power to change anyone, and therefore that God is nothing but a big fat joke. In this sense, yes — rebellion against His pattern for women does dishonor Him.
Notice, however, that Paul specifies that it’s the Word of God that would be dishonored. If non-Christians already dishonor the Word by rejecting it, could Paul mean that we dishonor God and His Word by acting as if it has no actual authority over us? Unbelievers would cheer such a practical declaration, I’m sure. But wouldn’t we essentially be demonstrating rebellion against the Lord? Wouldn’t we be telling Him that what He says really doesn’t matter to us?
Honoring God has an impact on the non-Christians who watch our lives, to be sure. But if we limit our honor of Him to outward performance, we’re no different than the hypocritical Pharisees that Jesus often rebuked! You’ll recall that their fastidious attempts to display their “righteousness” didn’t impress the Lord in the least. He exposed them as frauds.
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~~Matthew 23:25-28 (NASB95)
Honoring God means obeying Him whether anyone notices our obedience or not. We honor Him because we love Him and desire to please Him. If He calls women to conduct ourselves as Titus 2:3-5 directs, we honor Him by conforming to that directive regardless of who sees us. He notices, and that’s enough.