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Titus (long version)

Grumpy Old Men

Titus 2:1-8

Coffee cup philosophy has been with us for some time now. I have a cup at home that reads, “Tease me about my age and I’ll beat you with my cane.” It’s supposed to be humorous, but there are days….

Just how is an old geezer like me supposed to behave? We’re accustomed to sermons telling the young just what to do, but those of us who are older – what do we get? Here’s Paul’s advice, given to a young man, as to what he should tell the old men (and women) of his congregations.

(Titus 2:1-8 NIV) You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. {2} Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. {3} Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. {4} Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, {5} to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. {6} Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. {7} In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness {8} and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Old man’s failings

Chrysostom tells us that an old man’s failings (as opposed to those of youth) are “slowness, timidity, forgetfulness, insensibility and irritability.” As to the first four I can give you but little help – but we can touch upon the last. We need not turn into grumpy old men if we will but listen.

Teaching the older men

Matthew Henry said that we should not think that “the decays of nature justify excess.” So often we think that the pain of arthritis justifies a snappish temper, for example. We would not tolerate this in a younger person, but we’ve become accustomed to it in the elderly. Why? Our Lord does not accord it to us as a privilege.

One reason is this: we spend so much time preaching about the sins of youth that we forget there are trials in age as well. Sometimes we are so pleased that age has rid us of the problems of youth we think that an excuse for not dealing with the problems of age. Rather, we need to listen to Paul’s admonition here, telling us the things an old man should be practicing:

  • Temperance – the word can also be translated “vigilance.” (The translation is affected by the anti-alcohol variant). As the ancients understood this, it meant that a man should be on the watch for the sins which attack him. After all, by now you should know that temptation is coming. You should be prepared to deal with it calmly.
  • Worthy of respect – also translated “grave,” “dignified” or “serious,” it means one whose bearing is such that people naturally respect him. There is a certain air about a man who has accomplished things; who has overcome but is not arrogant about the overcoming. This is the manner in which an older Christian man should conduct himself. Life is a serious thing; it is the necessary prelude to eternity.
  • Self-controlled – also translated “prudent” or “sensible,” it gives us the picture of one whose life is in all measures controlled and reasonable.

Do you detect a certain sense of “solid” about such a person? That’s exactly what Paul is after. Such a man will be “sound” – think of a building in a hurricane; you want the one that won’t blow down. That’s soundness. Soundness in the Biblical sense includes faith, love and endurance (also translated patience.) Consider how each of these changes with age:

  • Faith – faith should become deeper with age. It should need less and less of the emotional side; less and less of the miraculous and more of the insight.
  • Love – love should mature. Emotions may be the starter motor, but love runs well in a V-8. There should be the deep rumbling purr of all cylinders firing, rather than the grinding sound of an electric motor and gears. So it is that mature love is best expressed in quiet, deep relationship.
  • Endurance – also translated patience, it means that persistence which neither gets aggravated nor ever gives up.

One thing is clear: these are the virtues of one who has lived long in the faith – and has overcome.

Failings Female

Paul here tells us the two failings of old women: slander and wine. This may seem an odd combination to us, but we must remember the times. In those days no decent woman would be seen out of doors for any length of time in a city. She would go, however, from her house to another’s, along with a few other socially acceptable locations. In other writings Paul describes the process as being one in which they went from house to house, being the carriers of the epidemic known as gossip. Slander is spread the same way.

Wine, on the other hand, seems to come from a medical failure. Chrysostom points out that the common problem was that older women felt cold – which could be menopause, or perhaps circulatory difficulties. The “cure” for this (they had little else in the way of medicine) was supposed to be wine. It is a pleasant cure for this, and arthritis too. But it can be overdone.

The separation of the sexes in that time can be seen here too. Titus was to teach the men, period. He was to teach the older women – who were to teach the younger ones. Titus himself was not to subject himself to such temptations. It would have been viewed as inappropriate.

This, of course, presumes that the older women are able to do the teaching – and they should be. But what should be the curriculum?

  • First, they are to love their husbands. Remember that at this time most marriages were arranged by the parents. This is given first because all else will fit in place if this is done. For example, if there is no division between mother and father, children cannot play one against the other – which gives them a much greater sense of security.
  • Then they are to love their children. It sounds strange to think this needed to be taught back then; we tend to view the past as a time when “mother love” came naturally. But consider this: if you didn’t love your husband but were told to marry him, wouldn’t you be tempted to despise his children? Do you see how loving the husband must come first? If you love the root, how much more the fruit? (Chrysostom).
  • Self control is next, and this is much the same for the woman as the man.
  • Pure – the word specifically refers to chastity in this instance. Infidelity is deadly to a marriage, despite what our society teaches.
  • Next – to the dismay of feminists – they are to be “busy at home.” Worse than the feminists worst nightmare, this does not mean housework. The phrase literally means “guardian of the home.” It is the same word used of a soldier who would be assigned to guard a temple. It’s not just the housework; it’s the idea that the woman is to prize that home and guard it as precious. She is to be the particular guardian of the family and its hearth.
  • Kindness – now seen as a weakness in our cruel society, it was then seen as a virtue.
  • Subject to their husbands – the word does in fact mean “obedient.” Space does not permit amplification of the justice of this command; please see the essay on authority and submission.

All of this – so horrifying to modern Christian women – has a purpose: that the Gospel of Christ will not be maligned. There is much to say about this; here are two things of highest importance:

  • One point that is always clear in Paul’s writing is this: a Christian should be visibly, demonstrably different from ordinary people. People should look at a Christian and know what they are by their conduct. If no one could tell that you are a Christian by your speech and conduct, I seriously would question your commitment to Christ.
  • It is also clear that we must distinguish between what is lawful for a Christian (i.e., not forbidden) and what is profitable for the church, the community of believers. If my conduct is lawful but convinces others that Christians are insane and undesirable people, I do not have my Master’s heart for them.

Failings of Youth

(See how Titus is to instruct the young men, not the young women). Again we see at the head of our list of virtues the one which graces a Christian most: self-control. How is this to be taught? By example; nothing else really works.

There are other lessons here for the young:

  • Integrity the oneness of the soul. The temptation to the young man is to take the shortcut, to “get rich quick.” Integrity means doing things the right way the first time, just because that’s the kind of man you are.
  • Seriousness – in our time, to turn your baseball cap bill forward. We have made a virtue of youthful rebellion; the real virtue is in becoming a mature Christian, taking the faith seriously.
  • Soundness of speech – your speech continues to introduce you every moment your mouth is open. What does it say for a young man whose tongue is never under control?

All this, again, has but one purpose: that the Gospel of Christ may not be maligned.


There are three concepts I would leave you with:

  • All of this teaching depends upon the concept of authority – that there are those who are entitled to have authority over us, and that we should obey them. Women often object because they’re smarter than their husband – and (statistically) they’re right about half the time. But as we used to say in the Army, “you salute the uniform, not the wearer.” You honor the burden of the one in authority by being obedient, whether or not the bearer is stronger or weaker than you are.
  • The world sees Christ in the person of the church. We are the ambassadors of Christ. As such, we are not privileged to behave however we like, but rather however he would like us to behave – so as to win as many as possible to the Gospel. The principle is simply this: behave so that the world will honor Christ as seen in your conduct.
  • In this structured world of authority called the church, those who are older have authority over those who are younger. That authority – like all legitimate authority – is given by God with a purpose. That purpose is that we will train up the younger ones in the way of the faith. We are “passing the faith along to our brothers.” It is not only our authority; it is our privilege.

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