I nearly failed Latin in college, so I easily decided against taking classes in Classical Greek. Therefore, I don’t claim to know much about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. As I write this series on Titus 2:3-5, I sort of wish I did know Greek, since the construction of the sentence would probably deepen my understanding.
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)
Verse 3, after describing the character qualities older women should exhibit, commissions us to teach what is good. The translators of the New American Standard Bible 1995 indicate that teaching what is good includes the topics listed in verses 4 and 5 by using the phrase, “so that.” This rendering helps us determine that the primary purpose for older women to teach younger women to focuses on encouraging those younger women to be wives and mothers who honor the Lord. Most definitely, we should maintain this goal at all cost!
But does this passage limit us to teaching domestic skills? If Paul had written Titus 2:3-5 in present day American English, would he have placed a comma or a colon after the word “good?”
This question is important in avoiding ditches on both sides of the debate on what women’s ministry entails, so I think I should address it head-on. Again, I don’t know Classical Greek, so I can’t claim to have the definitive answer on the matter, but I believe I can make a good case for a middle position that women must teach some doctrine in order to defend Biblical roles for wives and mothers.
One of my readers commented recently that most women’s ministries take the idea of older women teaching younger women without even acknowledging verses 4 and 5. Even solid churches that avoid the fluff and error that comes through popular women’s teachers major on simply teaching the Bible, rarely mentioning how younger women can serve the Lord in the context of family life. That ditch can lead women to wonder why we can’t also teach men. If our curriculum isn’t gender specific, we reason, why should our audience be?
On the other hand, some women fall into the ditch of thinking that women must teach exclusively about having godly marriages and raising godly children. Perhaps they assume that women can learn enough theology from their pastors on Sunday mornings. Whatever the rationale, a small but visible group of evangelicals limit what women should be teaching to other women. Almost as if younger women shouldn’t bother their pretty little heads about anything outside of their homes.
Neither ditch is acceptable.
Titus 2:3-5 definitely makes a correlation between women teaching women and the duties of wives and mothers. Although it’s popular to overlook that correlation, ignoring it shows a neglect of context. Paul certainly envisioned older women passing down their wisdom — gained from their own experience of obedience to God’s Word — to young wives and mothers. That being the case, 21st Century women bear the same responsibility.
To teach younger women these things, however, older women need to lay a strong Biblical foundation. Non-Christian women can adequately teach their daughters how to sweep floors and change diapers. My own non-Christian mother taught me things about raising teenage children that actually conform to Biblical principles. If older women confine their teaching to subject matter that anyone could glean from self-help books, they render themselves useless.
Older Christian women understand that non-Christian culture naturally rebels against the Lord and His design for gender roles. We know that simply telling our younger sisters that their place is in the home isn’t enough. We need to saturate them in Scripture so that they can see why God calls them to care for their homes as their primary ministry. For this reason, older women need to teach sound doctrine as the foundation for all the things Paul lists in verses 4 and 5.
In that respect, teaching what is good may indeed encompass teaching sound doctrine as a supplement to what pastors teach and preach from the pulpit. As a matter of fact, pastors can’t always address the false teachers that prey on women. As much as my pastor teaches sound theology every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night, for example, I still see ladies in our church who flirt with various errors. The pastor can’t monitor each and every one of us, nor do our husbands always know what popular women’s “Bible teachers” teach. Consequently, older women must help younger women develop discernment.
The need for older women to lead younger women into solid doctrine has become critical in the past few years because many influential female teachers have embraced egalitarian ideas. They’ve joined the world in promoting feminism, twisting Scripture in order to rationalize their rebellion. Quite often, they make it appear as though they rightly interpret passages, and they deceive other women with clever stories and emotional appeals. Unless we teach younger women sound doctrine, these popular teachers will woo them away from properly loving their husbands and children.
As an aside, I must mention that not all women become wives and not all wives become mothers. Younger single women still need older women who will nurture them in the faith and encourage them to behave discreetly around their brothers in Christ. Teaching single women good theology will help them handle the pain of singleness by pointing them to appropriate ways of serving Christ.
Yet if we only teach doctrine without applying it to how women can best serve their families, we also subtly encourage feminism. As vital as sound doctrine is, it’s equally vital to emphasize that a woman’s primary ministry centers around her husband and children. Like the lady who recently commented on my article about older women teaching younger women, I recognize the tendency to overlook Paul’s itemization of what older women should teach.