The book of Titus has only 46 verses, but there is much admonition for us in these pages. Titus was a Greek believer, converted from paganism to faith in Christ, and he had been left on the island of Crete to help straighten out some matters there. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Titus giving instructions for various age groups in the church, and emphasizing the need for upright and godly daily living.
Chapter 2 gives counsel for Christians in various age brackets. In this article, we look at counsel for older men and women in the church. The lesson is for grandpas and grandmas, but younger folks can profit from these instructions also.
Everyone wants to live a long time, but no one wants to be old. The word “old” has a bad sound to many people, and so we talk about senior citizens, retired folks, and golden-agers. Nobody goes to an “old peoples’ home.” We go to rest homes, nursing facilities, and retirement communities.
Sound doctrine (verse 1) is teaching that is fully in accord with the unadulterated Word of God. Those who preach “sound doctrine” preach a well-rounded message, expounding on all parts of the Word—and let the chips fall where they may.
1. Counsel for Older Men (Titus 2:1-2)
We owe much to older people in the church. I used to think that when men and women get old, they would automatically be nice persons. I have learned that is not necessarily true.
There are a lot of callous and bitter older people. Some are grumpy, irritable and cynical. If we are going to be gentle and gracious and charitable in old age, we must have some practice in expressing those virtues during our younger years. We will not become gentle and gracious older people automatically when we reach age 65. Godly, pleasant, kind older people are that way because they developed those virtues when they were younger.
In Titus 2:2-3 we are given instructions for older men. Titus is to teach older men about six qualities of good character. Each character quality is a mark of maturity. Titus is to teach “that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.”
1) Older men are to be “sober” (sober-minded). A sober-minded person is calm and balanced. He avoids extravagance and overindulgence. He has a balanced judgment—the ability to discern between what is important and what is trivial.
One brother believes that because Jesus was perfect, when He worked in the carpenter shop He never hit His fingers (and this man made a big deal about it). Instead of being extreme, the older men in the church should be the balance-wheels of the congregation. Their advice should indicate mature judgment and proper restraint. We should expect the older men to be balanced, reserved, and disciplined. Older men are to be “sober-minded,” careful to avoid extravagance, overindulgence, and senseless statements.
2) Older men are to be “grave.” The word “grave” means to have an intense conviction about the seriousness of life. A “grave” person avoids the attitude which implies that life is just a big game. Older men are to be reverent and dignified. They don’t laugh at sexual immorality, vulgarity, and things that are sinful and ungodly.
To be “grave” does not mean that one must be severe, stern, or gloomy, but the older Christian man lives in light of eternity. He knows that before long, he will be leaving the society of human beings on earth, and heading for the society of the eternal God in Heaven. That’s a very sobering thought for all of us to ponder!
3) Older men are to be “temperate.” Temperance speaks of moderation in things needful and good, and abstinence from things wicked and harmful. Temperance is the ability to say “No” to harmful things such as the use of tobacco, the taking of human life, the squandering of time, the wrong use of the tongue, etc. Temperance is the determination to say “Yes” to good things like spending time with one’s children and grandchildren, providing a good home for one’s marriage partner, and showing kindness to those who are objects of ridicule. The “temperate” person is a disciplined person—one who determines to do a good thing, and then does it. He deliberately avoids practices that are unwise, such as overeating, overspending, and overindulging in anything (even sleep).
In one TV advertisement a little boy holds up a bag of potato chips, and says to an adult sports hero, “I betcha can’t eat just one.” The adult sports hero says, “Of course I can eat just one!” He is a highly disciplined athlete who has spent hundreds of hours in practice on the field. But the next thing the audience sees is an empty potato chip bag. (The commercial sells lots of potato chips, but it is also selling something less tasty—a philosophy that celebrates unrestrained self-indulgence! Our society is not a friend to temperate living.)
4) Older men are to be “sound in faith.” The original Greek literally says “the faith.” The reference is not so much to “faith that trusts Christ for salvation,” as it is to “the body of Christian truth (doctrinal truths).” We are to earnestly contend for “the faith” (Jude 3).
Older men in the church must know what they believe! We must be men of conviction, men who stand for something! Older men must not only trust God for salvation and for their daily sustenance, but must also be acquainted with the basics of the Christian faith. We must know something about the greatness and majesty of God, the wonders of redemption through faith in Jesus Christ, and the marvelous ministry of the Holy Spirit. Some older men mellow and become soft and easy-going. They shy away from solid doctrinal teaching. Older men are to be “sound in the faith”—not afraid to stand for solid doctrinal truth.
5) Older men are to be “(sound in) charity.” One of the great dangers facing older persons is the tendency to criticize and to find fault. Often we older men find it hard to accept changed ways of doing things—a one-week revival instead of a two-week meeting; a youth work camp for young people; a Christian school in the church basement; family members doing home schooling, and other issues. But we are to be “sound in charity.” That is, we are to respond to situations that arise with forbearance and tenderness, rather than with discontent and bitterness. Older men in the congregation are to be examples of charity, and are not to be grumbling just because some things are different. I am talking about neutral matters, debatable things, and personal preferences, but not about clear, basic doctrinal issues.
6) Older men are to be “(sound in) patience.” The word translated “patience” refers to endurance—the art of bearing up and pressing on, even though everything seems to be going against us. Patience is the persistence which bravely bears the trials and afflictions of life, without losing heart and giving up. It means to “hang in there” because we know that God is in control. Perseverance (patience) is the ability to endure hardship, to accept disappointment, and to respond graciously even when one is misunderstood and unappreciated.
Older men, then, are to be disciplined and balanced and serious-minded and persevering and sound in the faith. They are to be good examples to those who are younger.
2. Counsel for Older Women (Titus 2:3-4a)
There is a long list of respectable and trustworthy women named in the Bible. These include Jochebed, Ruth, Naomi, the Shunamite woman, Elizabeth, several Marys, Martha, Dorcas, Lydia, Priscilla, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Lois, Eunice, and others. There are also a few of the other kind named in the Bible, including Jezebel and Potiphar’s wife.
The qualities for older women are at least fourfold: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women . . .”
1) They are to model “behavior as becomes holiness.” The term speaks of general deportment. There should be sacredness about the conduct of older women in the church. No one in the congregation can be quite as influential as a godly older woman.
Timothy, for example, learned the Scriptures from his mother and his grandmother. The term “mothers in Israel” is used in the Old Testament (in Judges 5:7). Our congregations today need the presence of older, saintly grandmothers who can be a real inspiration to the family circle, and can add dignity to the testimony of the local church.
2) Older women are not to be “false accusers.” This is a reference to the dangers of unguarded speech. Older women must be careful about gossip, idle chatter, and talking too much. This admonition is really needed for all of us, but it is especially needful for older women with lots of time on their hands.
You have heard about those jet planes that travel faster than sound. The Gospel Herald told about two older women boarding a jet plane for their first ride. They heard about the planes that travel unusually fast (supersonic transport)—planes that travel faster than sound. The door to the pilot’s compartment was open as they boarded the plane, and one of the ladies said to the captain: “Now look here, young man, don’t you go faster than sound; we want to talk!”
Talking seems to be a typical pastime of older ladies, and thus they must exercise great caution about accusing others. When a person talks too much, it is easy to engage in unnecessary talk about the affairs of others. All of us must guard against wrong attitudes—uttering false charges and saying things that damage the reputation of others. Jeremiah speaks of those who “smite with the tongue” (Jeremiah 18:18). That can happen over the telephone, across back yard fences, and during visits in homes.
3) Older women must “not be given to much wine.” The later translations say, “Older women must not be addicted to wine.” Most of the water in the Middle East was unsafe to drink, so people used a very diluted kind of wine as a common beverage. Such use of wine was not condemned in the New Testament, but addiction to alcoholic beverages is clearly prohibited.
The tremendous social evils that are connected with drinking today always start with moderate use of alcohol, and because of this, most of us have been taught that aside from appropriate medical use, we should not touch strong drink. That indeed is the safest policy to follow.
4) Older women are to be “teachers of good things.” The older sister is to be a “teacher.” She is to teach younger women those things that are necessary, wholesome, and good—especially teaching in those areas that deal with the very heart of the home.
If you are an older woman and your children are raised and have established homes of their own, you have entered a new phase of life. Your work is not finished! You are to be a mentor, a counselor, and instructor of younger women in the church. (Note that Titus is to teach the older men and the older women, and the younger men and those who are servants. But he is not told to teach the young women. That job is for the older sisters of the church!)
There are some things the older women in the church are to teach the younger women. Older women are to teach younger women to be sober-minded—that is, to be calm in spirit, ready to meet the circumstances of life with a keen sense of trust in God. Or as Psalm 112:7 says it, she is not to be afraid of evil tidings, “for (her) heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
Older women are to teach younger women to love their husbands and their children. It may seem strange that a young woman should be told to love her husband, but some marriages on the island of Crete were undoubtedly arranged by the parents, and the young woman may not necessarily have been attracted to the man. Also, it should be natural for mothers to love their children, but in New Testament times there was much parental neglect, and this admonition was badly needed. In our day of widespread abortion this instruction is needed just as much as in New Testament times.
Older women are to teach younger women to be “discreet, chaste, and keepers at home.” The term discreet speaks of a sense of what is appropriate. It is a general word which means “to be sensible, and careful about what we do, and how we say things.” The word chaste means “to guard one’s moral purity.” The young Christian woman is to keep her body for her own husband. This means that she must show self-restraint in her manner of dress; she must deliberately avoid clinging, form-fitting clothes and scanty, revealing attire.
Older women are to teach young women to be “good” and “keepers at home.” The young Christian woman is to be a kindhearted person, and she is to be a worker at home—a lover of home. She is to learn to be a good housekeeper, seeking to make the home a place of top priority. The highest goal for any young wife should be to make the home a place where order and godliness are clearly evident.
Older women, then, are to be teachers of younger women in the church. They are to teach younger women those things that are wholesome and good—especially teaching in those areas that deal with the very heart of the home.
As we conclude this section on Counsel for Older Men and Women, we note again that older members are to manifest a beautiful aura of self-control, a sweet humility of spirit, and a deep genuine love for those who are younger.
Older men and women in the congregation should have a wise maturity which comes from walking with God for many years. They should teach the younger by word and by example. This is how important Bible values are passed on from generation to generation.
One of the high points of my experiences teaching in Africa and India and Jamaica and the Philippine Islands is the tremendous respect people in Third World countries have for those who are older. They do not have many older people. The life span in some parts of the world is still only about forty-five years. Many younger people in such countries treasure the wisdom of those who are older.
Those who are younger need to be grateful for older members who passed on the Christian heritage. Godly older men and women in the congregation are a rich spiritual resource, and they deserve special esteem and consideration.