We generally fall into one of two ditches in applying Titus 2:3-5 to how we conduct women’s ministry.
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. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)
The more common ditch (and the one I usually fall into) condenses the passage down to nothing more than women teaching other women. It’s certainly commendable that people recognize that Christian women can use their gifts of teaching without teaching men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12, and I praise God that women want to obey the Lord. Yes, as godly women, we must be careful not to step outside the boundaries prescribed in God’s Word. In a time when far too many women have declared themselves to be pastors or have taken co-ed Bibles Studies and/or Sunday School classes, it’s refreshing to see women stewarding their teaching abilities appropriately.
Yet it’s intellectually dishonest to suppose that this passage means only that women should teach women. This understanding of the passage ignores verses 4-5 entirely, doesn’t it?
Ironically, verses 3-4 have apparently created a new ditch, particularly among those who ascribe to extreme forms of patriarchy. According to this group, older women should confine their teaching of younger women to domestic pursuits, leaving matters of doctrinal education to husbands and (secondarily) pastors. Although only a small minority of Christians promote this position, we must acknowledge its existence and grapple with its implications. If it’s truly Biblical, then I — along with several other women — stand in serious need of repentance.
Thankfully, the last item Paul lists in verse 3 challenges that point of view by saying only that older women should teach what is good. Reliable English translations of this passage invariably punctuate this phrase with a comma rather than a colon, indicating their understanding that this is merely part of a list that begins in verse 3.
As I noted in a post a few months ago, 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. Clearly, the culture in which Titus ministered wasn’t much different from the self-centered culture we live in today, judging from other passages in the epistle, leading me to believe that few people in Crete taught young women how to be godly wives and mothers. That being the case, 21st Century women bear the same responsibility of teaching these skills.
Our approach to marriage and motherhood has an impact on our testimony for Christ. Do we treat our husbands and children in ways that reflect obedience to Christ? Are we giving our children incentive to follow Him? Older Christian women can teach us wives to love our husbands and children that honor the Lord, going well beyond anything we’d learn from Better Homes and Gardens!
To teach younger women these things, therefore, older women need to lay a strong Biblical foundation. Non-Christian women can adequately teach their daughters how to sweep floors and change diapers. 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 her introductory lesson on Ephesians, Susan Heck emphasized that teaching principles of Christian living requires that we first teach doctrine. Therefore, teaching domestic skills apart from sound doctrine on Who God is and what He has done misses the point. If we teach younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands,” we need to first build a foundation on Scripture. Once we lay that Biblical foundation, our younger sisters will have the motivation they need to be godly women.
I can’t overstate the critical importance of saturating younger women (as well as ourselves) in the Word of God. 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. In so doing, they often neglect their proper roles in both home and church, falsely believing that they can “serve” God only by having leadership positions that men have.
Teaching younger women to serve the Lord in Scriptural ways encompasses so much more than sewing lessons and lectures on submission in marriage. And, by the same token, our goal in teaching them the great doctrines of the Christian faith should result in training them to be excellent wives and mothers. Rather than falling into one ditch or the other, let’s teach the good content of Scripture in order to produce women who know Christ so well that they want to honor Him in how they live.