Older Women Need Instruction Too

Titus 2:3-5 seems to have become the definitive passage for determining the entire sphere of Biblical womanhood. It’s foundational, certainly, and a necessary corrective to the damage feminism has caused in recent decades. As Biblical women, you and I must obey its teaching, especially when it comes against the rebellious standards imposed on us by the world.

At the same time, some people react to feminism by making overly narrow applications of this passage, usually zeroing in on younger women working within the home. That assumption needs to be addressed at some point, as a few verses in Proverbs 31 provide qualifications that we have to consider. But as I’ve thought about taking you through Titus 2:3-5, it’s occurred to me that I’ve also gotten sucked in to the narrow discussion of a woman’s place being in the home. So I want to back up a bit and look more carefully at the passage. Specifically, I want to say a few things about Paul’s commands to older women.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, 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 (NASB95)

Yes, the passage clearly says that older women are to teach younger women with the goal of encouraging them to be wives and mothers who work on managing their homes. But that just isn’t the sum total of these three verses. Look at the first few clauses.

For starters, ladies, Paul uses the word “likewise” to refer back to his model for older men:

Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. ~~Titus 2:2 (NASB95)

From this word “likewise” we correctly infer that the reverent behavior older women should exhibit encompasses these qualities in addition to the qualities enumerated in verse 3. This changes our perspective, calling us to focus less on teaching younger women homemaking skills and more on cultivating godly characters in women of all ages. As older women develop traits that reflect the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can then encourage our younger sisters to be wives and mothers who bring honor to Him.

Obviously, then, Titus 2:3-5 is much broader than we generally make it, and we typically skip over its demands on older women. While we absolutely must give attention to the importance of younger women working at home, however, we shouldn’t do so until we first talk about building godly characters in older women.

Look at the issue from a practical standpoint for a moment. An older woman without godly qualities can successfully pass good homemaking skills to their daughters. Some of us, having become Christians apart from our families, had wonderful non-Christian moms who taught us how to take care of a home and children. In and of themselves, these skills don’t require a relationship with Jesus. In light of this reality, we should ask ourselves if Paul was interested in nothing beyond teaching women domestic skills. I believe his emphasis on godly qualities in older women suggests a great deal more than producing a bunch of happy homemakers.

Therefore, before we even begin to deal with the whole question of whether or not younger women should ever work outside the home, we need to study the question of which older women are Biblically qualified to teach younger women. Chronological age may or may not correspond to spiritual maturity. I’ve known women who have grandchildren and have gone to church for decades, but have very little discernment to pass down to younger women. Some retain worldly habits that would actually be a negative influence. It’s imperative, then, that we first teach older women to be godly.

Titus 2:2-3 shows us how older women (mostly by emulating qualities that older men should have) ought to conduct ourselves. The list rightly intimidates us a bit, reminding us of our desperate need to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us obey the Lord in all these things. But praise God for His care in working with us in preparation for our ministries to the next generation of women. If we really want to be Titus 2 women, let’s start applying the entire passage. Let’s ensure that we older women bring ourselves into obedience so that we can in turn serve as good examples to our younger sisters in Christ.

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