Editor’s Note: This post is the third part of a series. Other posts can be read here: “Men and Women in Household of God,” “A Word to the Older Men,” and “A Word to the Younger Women.”
After giving instructions about older men in the congregation, Paul now turns to the older women:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.” Titus 2:3
Notice that Paul says “likewise.” That means that these older women are to be godly exemplars just like the older men are. And Paul specifies particular attributes:
“Reverent in behavior” means behavior that is worthy of a holy person (Montanari). There is a verbal link to what Paul says in verse one about that which is “fitting with sound doctrine.” This term calls for behavior that is “fitting with holiness.” Paul zeroes in on two very specific besetting sins that are not in accord with holy behavior.
“Not slanderers.” To slander someone means to assassinate someone’s character with your words. The NASB translates the term as “malicious gossips.” The malevolent attempt to destroy someone’s reputation and character with your words is not in keeping with holiness. In fact, this term is one of the names that the Bible gives to the Devil—Diabolos. He is a slanderer. Slander is the devil’s work and is completely at odds with holy behavior.
“Slaves to much wine.” Don’t miss the slavery image in these words. It is a warning of what excessive alcohol consumption can do to a person (Knight). Especially for women who have daily, easy access to the food and drink of the household, excess can become a real temptation (Knight). Such excess completely undermines holiness, and it prevents an older woman from assuming a particular duty that she has in the congregation and that Paul specifies in the last phrase of the verse:
“They are to teach what is good.” Verses 4-5 show exactly what they are supposed to teach and to whom they are to teach it. It turns out that the older woman’s gray hair is a crown of splendor for her too (cf. Prov. 20:29). Her steadiness and wisdom are supposed to be a boon for younger women of the congregation. The wiser and more mature women of the church have an obligation to teach the women of the church. But they can’t teach what they can’t do. Their own lives must be exemplary to the women that they influence.
The world’s point of view of the relationship between gray hair and wisdom is upside down. The world absolutely idolizes youth. So much so, that the order of the day is to suppress the appearance of age—to try to stay and look as young as you can for as long as you can because the essence of the good life is for those who are youthful, vigorous, and beautiful. And this pressure is particularly acute for women, who are often told that their value lies in their appearance. The world caters to the tastes and opinions of the young because they are the most coveted consumer demographic. That is why the world puts the old on the shelf and the young on the podium. But it really should be the other way around.
Sadly, sometimes you see this worldly tendency in churches. I once knew of a certain church without a pastor. The church had appointed a committee to decide the direction of the church before the next pastor would be called—a team composed almost entirely of younger adults and no senior adult representative. This is how they thought they would reach the next generation. This is backwards. If a team like that is to be composed exclusively of one demographic, you would want it to be filled with those wearing a gray-headed crown of splendor.
If we wish to be faithful to Christ, we have to honor age for the wisdom that comes with it. And we have to do so in a cultural context that pressures women to keep up a certain appearance and then forgets about them when they are past their prime. As God’s people, we have to understand that a woman’s prime may very well be exactly at that moment when she feels the externals are fading. It is right then that we need her ministry and wisdom to come to full flower within the church. This is what God has prepared her for her whole life. And the church must honor and promote the unique ministry that older women have to offer the younger women in the congregation.
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