Titus lived in a decadent culture, Crete. Paul’s description of the people who lived in this society may sound familiar to us.
There are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers . . . . They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. . . . They claim to know God but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Titus 1:10-13, 16 NIV)
What did Paul ask Titus to do for greatest impact in the Cretan culture? First, he asked Titus to “appoint elders in every town” (1:5). Second, he asked Titus to teach that which reflects sound doctrine (2:1). Then in Titus 2:2-10 Paul asked Titus to teach four specific people-groups: 1) older men, 2) older women, 3) younger men, and 4) slaves. Did you notice one people group missing from his list of people Titus himself should teach?
The people group that is omitted from the list is “younger women.” They are not included as recipients of Titus’ direct teaching. Why not? Are they left out entirely? Will their impact in a decadent society not be felt? On the contrary! Two verses in this passage focus on training younger women. If the length of the passage is an indicator of their importance, then younger women are at the top of the list! All other people groups are given instructions in one verse only! Perhaps the old saying “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” is actually biblical! The stories of Moses and Samuel certainly reflect the powerful impact of a mother’s early influence on a child’s life.
Then who is to train the younger woman? It is the older women. But not just any woman who is older. The training should be done by women who are “Reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women . . .”
Let’s look at these characteristics more closely. Are they any different than those characteristics of older men? Let’s compare. Make a list of the four characteristics of older men. Alongside, list those which are parallel from the list of older women.
Older Men; Older Women
1. Worthy of respect; Reverent in the way they live
2. Temperate; Not addicted
3. Self-controlled; Not slanderers
4. Sound in faith, love & endurance; Able to teach what is good
Do you see similarities? The list for older women begins with “likewise.” This draws us back to the previous verse, which was the list for older men. The characteristics of the older men and the older women in this list are indeed similar!
But when we see the characteristics of the older woman fleshed out in the life of a younger woman, we get a clearer picture of what they look like “with skin on.” A godly older woman can best “translate” the teachings of godliness into the life of a younger woman. Certainly being pure, kind, self-controlled and loving would not only impact the most intimate of relationships but all associations.
Compare this to the list given in I Tim 3:11, describing deaconesses.
Women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything
Does that list look familiar? It is essentially the same list! I love the summary characteristic: trustworthy in everything.
When you are looking for a friend, mentor, or older woman isn’t this the ribbon that wraps up the entire package of description? Don’t you want someone who is trustworthy in everything? A godly woman, defined by the lists in Titus 2 and I Tim 3 will be trustworthy in everything! An older woman who is able to teach what is good, will teach by her life and words soundness in faith, love and endurance. A younger woman who is taught by an older godly woman as described by Titus, will become trustworthy.
What about single women? Do you see the same characteristics flourishing in a single woman?
Women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
…reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good… self-controlled and pure…kind (I Tim 3:11; Titus 2:3,5)
Certainly these same characteristics are critical in the life of a godly single woman. Godly single woman can have strategic impact on their culture. Their voices are needed, indeed paramount to impacting a decadent society for good!
The relationships of the older woman in our text are not identified. Although we imagine she was married and had children at some point in her life, the text does not say this. Many single women make important contributions to married women, and moms. Many single women have a more expansive view of life and the ability to stretch beyond familiar territory. Nurture and companionship enhance most relationships. The influence of single women in biblical times, such as Miriam, Mary Magdelene, Mary of Bethany, and Martha, is still being felt today.
And every woman is older than someone and younger than someone.