The Little Word That Doesn’t Seem All That Important

The apostle Paul sometimes does interesting things. Titus 2:5 has me scratching my head and feeling a bit amused at his order of words. Look again at Titus 2:3-5, and then I’ll show you what has me so befuddled.

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. (NASB95)

Right between “workers at home” and “being subject to their own husbands,” he puts the word “kind.” Wouldn’t submission to husbands better follow being a homemaker? And if we read Titus 2:5 through a 21st Century lens, the insertion of this little word seems even more out of place.

And yet, I don’t think many people find it very startling. Actually, I don’t think many people even notice its presence at all. We’re too busy arguing about the other two phrases and their practical implications that we barely notice that older women must teach younger women to be kind. After all, in our English translations it’s such a small, unassuming word that nothing about it commands our attention. I only really noticed it because I’m blogging through Titus 2:3-5 and therefore knew that I’d have to deal with it.

I don’t know why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to place the word “kind” between two phrases that so clearly step on toes, but I believe it’s a stroke of genius. Any Christian with a Twitter account can see that people on both sides of the controversy often resort to nastiness in their attempts to discredit their opponents. Kindness flies out the window in favor of proving the other side wrong. Perhaps women in First Century Crete argued just as unkindly about the Biblical role of women as women in our day argue about it. I base that possibility on Paul’s earlier remarks about the savagery of First Century Crete (see Titus 1:10-16). Precisely because women (again, on both sides) can argue so vehemently and exhibit alarming brutality towards each other, it seems plausible that kindness needs to be mentioned.

I looked up the Greek word translated here as “kind” in hopes of gaining insight into how God wants women to exercise kindness. Although He also wants men to be kind, I think understanding the Greek word might help us know how to apply it, especially as we struggle with being homemakers and submitting to our husbands. Rather than bore you by quoting various Bible dictionaries (something you might look up on your own), I’ll summarize by saying that the word carries a sense of obligation virtue, moral uprightness and benevolence. The King James Version translated this word as “good.”

Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828) offers the most interesting definition of kindness, and I consider it to be useful in this discussion:

Disposed to do good to others, and to make them happy by granting their requests, supplying their wants or assisting them in distress; having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; benignant.

Webster’s definition gives us a sense of how godly women (and godly men, for that matter) must behave. I especially like the phrase, “having tenderness or goodness of nature.” That description fits the idea of what a woman should be like.

It follows that kindness, while it should be a trait that all Christians have regardless of gender, is particularly becoming to women. Thus older women should model kindness as we disciple younger women, and we should explicitly encourage them to practice kindness in daily life. As they keep house and submit to their husbands, kindness will make all the difference. When they minister to women and children within their churches or deal with the outside world, the Lord calls them to behave kindly.

Kindness is also a must on social media. I know it’s hard to keep from getting angry and caustic when people ridicule you for taking a Biblical stand. As I’ve been writing this post, friends on Facebook have been arguing with me because I want to examine something Scripturally, and I admit to almost replying harshly. Remembering that Paul commanded kindness helped me dial back and state my position gently while still remaining firm.

Social media has been a battle ground in the debate over women’s roles. As I mentoned earlier, ladies on both sides of the issue have been decidedly unladylike in presenting their cases. Was Paul anticipating animosity towards his instructions to be workers at home and to submit to their own husbands? To say so would be only conjecture on my part, so I want to be very careful about being dogmatic on that point. At the same time, I find it fascinating that the Holy Spirit — Who knew that women would have strong objections to these two directives, would inspire Paul to put the command for kindness between these two.

It’s not at all wrong to argue for the complementarian view, and even argue passionately. Indeed, we must stand on the clear teachings of Scripture as Western culture increasingly rebels against them. And we must remain firm. But that firmness should never be used as an excuse to mistreat others.

No matter what conflict arises, godly women must make kindness a priority. As we read Titus 2:5, let’s not allow the two emotionally charged phrases in this verse obscure the little word that snuggles between them Indeed, that little word just might determine our attitude toward those phrases.

Please leave a Reply after reading my Comment Policy Page (see Menu)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.