A Pepper Grinder Post

Ministry for the Average Person - Part 3

, we continued our exploration of Paul's picture of the ministry of an average Christian, looking at Titus 2:1-5. We've seen what was said to older men and women. We saw that a big part of the mission given to older women was teaching younger women. What we haven't looked at yet is what is supposed to be taught to these young women. This is what I want to dig into today. Here's my translation of the part of our passage that deals with women.

In the same way, teach the older women to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderous, not addicted to lots of wine, and teaching what's good, so they can encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and to submit to their own husbands, so people won't speak against the word of God. (Titus 2:3-5)

I studied German for three semesters in college. One of the things I enjoyed about the language was the way it would create new words simply by sticking two or more words together. To take a simple example, when Germans wanted to produce a car for the common man, they named the company that would do this "volks" (people) - "wagen" (car). Hence, Volkswagen. The Greeks may not have used this trick to the same extent as the Germans, but they did use it some. The first two things Paul says the younger women should be taught are words like these. Literally, they should be husband-lovers and children-lovers. Paul didn't make these words up. These compound words were not common, but they had been used in Greek literature, though this is the only time either word is used in the New Testament.

flowersOne thing to remember is that Biblical love is not primarily of the touchy-feely variety. I'm not saying that the people of the Bible didn't feel love. I think we can find plenty of examples where they felt it deeply. However, "love" was primarily an action. Thus, when young women are to be taught to "love" their husbands, they aren't being commanded to have an intense "in-love" feeling toward their husbands. They are being commanded to act in a loving way toward them.* The same goes for their children. I think, especially with love toward spouses, our culture's focus on the in-love feeling has not done us any favors. I think doing things to try to encourage feelings of love and closeness in a couple is a great thing. But if love is seen as that feeling, most couples will get to a point where the "love is gone." Perhaps they will hang on for a while, and perhaps those feelings will return, but the only really solid foundation for a marriage is when two people have vowed to continue to act lovingly towards each other, regardless how they feel.

And what does it mean to act lovingly? If we take God as the perfect example of a lover, it means to self-sacrificially do what is best for the person. Unlike the feeling-oriented version of love, which is grounded in a kind of mutual self-focus, this love is self-sacrificing. At the same time, letting a headstrong child have whatever he or she wants is not doing the best for him or her. Nor is putting up with abuse or unfaithfulness from a husband.

Another thing struck me about Paul's command for younger women to be taught to be husband-lovers and children-lovers. Saying it this way conveys a different idea than if he had just said that younger women should love their husbands and children. In the latter case, he would be describing something they were to do. As Paul wrote it, he is describing how they are to BE. Loving one's husband and children is much more than something to be squeezed into one's life along with a job, daily exercise, time with friends, etc.. For these young women, it was the center of who they were to be.

I can easily picture someone spluttering with outrage over this. What!? So he gets to go off and work at a fulfilling job and get recognition and accolades, while I have no purpose in life but to be his servant and baby factory? Here's the problem, I think. Men in our culture have been self-centered and career-centered. When I meet a man, one of the first things I want to find out is what he "does," by which I mean what his paying job is. I think that's because I have much too strong a tendency to define others and myself by our careers. I think the biggest part of my identity should be as a God-lover, a wife-lover, a children-lover, and a people-lover. That should matter far more than what I get paid to do for about a quarter of the hours in a week. I believe that men in our culture have often had wrong priorities. For a time, because of social conventions, women kept on working selflessly to love their husbands and children. Then, along came the feminist movement, which told women, "It's not fair that he gets all the rewards and recognition, while you slave away in the home. You can do everything he does!"

And so women suddenly had the "freedom" to go out and work at a job outside the home, and then come home and still do most of the work around the house! Because, guess what? Most men weren't about to jump in and take over half the housework and childcare. It was a great deal for the guys. Now there was more money, less pressure to be the sole provider, and they could still do what they felt like with their leisure time. I'm going to talk about this more when we get to ministry for the average man, but for now, I just want to propose the idea that women who no longer have their primary identity as husband-lovers and children-lovers, but who instead get to "do it all," may not really have gotten such a good deal.** I don't think it is the best for them, or their husbands, or their children.

mountain poolAnd what else did Paul want these young women to be? They were supposed to be self-controlled. It seems like at one time or another, the Bible has enjoined this character quality on almost everyone. Now we live in an age where, if someone has a desire to do something, we think he or she should be allowed to do it, unless it is part of the shrinking group of behaviors that are still considered unacceptable. The Bible has a different idea. If you want to sleep with a woman you aren't married to, guess what you're supposed to do? Use self-control to keep yourself from doing it! It's a wild idea, I know.

Paul also wants these women to be pure. It's easy to think of this in a negative way--as a person who doesn't do bad things. This is part of it, but not all of it. Just as a ring made from pure gold has few or no impurities in it, so these women were to be wholly committed to doing what God wanted them to do. They weren't to be half and half, but to be all in.

Now we get to another of those fun compound Greek words: these young women were to be home-workers. I heard a story of a man who made the bad mistake, when filling out a form for his stay-at-home wife, of writing none when asked for her occupation. No, no, no! This is the lie we have bought into. We have devalued the things a woman at home does. We have relegated them to something that is only worth doing in one's spare time or that can be delegated to someone of a lower pay grade. I'm not just talking about cleaning the house. And I think there is value to a woman being a home-worker, even if she doesn't have children. Speaking of my marriage, I find that my focus is often on the pragmatic. I keep the bills paid; I get the things done that my employer wants done. I depend on my wife for so many things. Not only does she do the lioness's share of raising and educating the kids we still have in our house (not to mention keeping in touch with the grown kids), but she also puts a priority on beauty, creativity, and relationships that I couldn't manage. Could she be a successful employee? I totally believe she could. But I think I and my children are far richer for having her be a home-working woman than we would if she were adding to the financial income of the family. (Although, I should also add, that a woman working at home might also be bringing in some money--look at the Proverbs 31 woman. However, I don't think that earning money should be her primary responsibility if there is any way the husband can do it. Again, more on this when we talk about men.)

flowering treesThese younger women were also supposed to be kind. Finally, they were to be submitting to their own husbands. A word about submission. Submission does not imply inferiority. John the Baptist didn't like it when Christ presented himself to John for baptism. He recognized, rightly, that this was a sign of submission, and he knew that the man standing in front of him was FAR greater than he was. Jesus didn't deny that he was greater than John, but he chose to submit himself anyway. Similarly, a woman doesn't submit to her husband because he is smarter or more spiritual than she is--he may very well not be. What God has done is create a division of labor. There are things women are called to do that men can't or shouldn't do, and there are things men are called to do that women aren't. Men should be constantly laying down their lives for their wives (even if their wives are NOT submitting to them), and women should be freely offering the place of leadership in the family to their husbands. Sorry if that sounds patriarchal. I'm just trying to say what the Bible says. I truly believe that if we followed this Biblical model of complimentary roles for men and women (rather than trying to get men and women to have identical roles), it would be better for both men and women. If you think this is just a man saying it, and I'll let my wife respond and give you her opinion.

Tune in , and I'll talk about how this has worked out in my wife's and my life. I'll also deal with some objections people might raise to the idea of applying these verses to people in the modern world.


*Another good example of what the Bible means by love is found in 1 Corinthians 13--the famous "love chapter." Paul spends most of his time talking about the unselfish way love acts (love is patient, love is kind, etc) rather than the way love feels.

**Obviously I'm generalizing here. I'm sure some working women have husbands who will not hesitate to jump in and do a bunch of the housework. Even in this case, though, I question whether this is really the ideal arrangement.