Setting a Good Example
[Titus chapter 2]
Today as we continue our in-depth look at the book of Titus, a book that is not usually mentioned in other Bible teachings I have heard or read in the last few years, we will go over chapter two. As we read through this we find some comments from the apostle Paul that don’t seem to ring true with what many of us have thought of as being of right judgment or rational “thinking” based on the scope of our experiences. I will do my best, so help me God, with disseminating these truths in harmony with the living Spirit of Christ as it applies to our modern era. Having said that, let’s go ahead and jump right in, beginning at verse one.
“You must teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 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. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 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.” (Titus 2, verses 1-5)
Paul is telling Titus to be sure and stick to the Gospel as Paul had taught it to him, and to never waver from that stance. Don’t change the message, and always be consistent. What is unsaid here is that there were quite a number of individuals who were teaching Christ crucified and resurrected, but in a flawed and sometimes even deceptive way, bending and twisting the Word of God, which is absolutely sacred, for the sake of profit or material gain. You will no doubt recall numerous examples in previous lessons where Paul expounded on this in detail, and he is clearly reiterating that theme once again – as if to say there was no way he could ever overstate the seriousness of what was occurring in what were supposed to be houses of worship. By now this looks familiar to everyone reading this. It’s just like the modern church, where most churchgoers today have a choice of attending services that are right out of the Middle Ages while steeped in pomp and circumstance, and the modern evangelical or ‘charismatic’ churches, many of which are being administered like businesses instead of the nonprofit houses of worship they were originally supposed to be. I’m not naming any names. I don’t have to.
Paul also makes mention of women who are “to be busy at home” and “to be subject to their husbands”. Let’s keep in mind the times in which Paul wrote this, as well as his background and education that I have mentioned in previous studies. Paul was a former member of the Sanhedrin, the top of the Hebrew religious hierarchy of that time. It would be the modern equivalent to being from the Vatican, or maybe even a TV televangelist or powerful politician. Women were subject to the kind of mistreatment and wholesale disrespect back then that you seldom see any more. The words “woman” and “equality” were never used in the same sentence, unlike today. Nor are women subject to their husbands much any more, excluding religious reasons. It’s a fact of modern life that at least two out of every ten women are choosing not to have children. In Paul’s day, women would have been brought before a judge for such an “offense” as maintaining some semblance of independence and free thought. Times sure have changed, and I think for the better. And now let’s move on to the middle part of today’s study.
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 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. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (Titus 2, verses 6-10, NIV)
Some older folks like myself, and sometimes parents as well, have in some cases not done enough to reign in and discipline our children and grandchildren. We should be doing this provided that discipline is done in a loving manner while practicing the arts of being tough without being mean, and of being very firm without being abusive. For parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles too, these goals are achievable in the home by strict adherence to Biblical principles. “Teach your children in the way they should go”, says the Bible, “and when they are grown they will not depart from it”. That was written over 3,000 years ago and its relevance has never been surpassed in all that time. Set an example and they will follow it. But be sure and set a good example at all times, or as far as that is possible with each of you. If you spend your weekends drinking and partying with your friends, don’t be surprised when you get a collect phone call at 4AM to please come and bail your eldest son or daughter out of jail because they just got a DUI. Well now, I wonder where they got that from?
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything…”. Slavery was a firmly entrenched institution then as it is now. Back in Paul’s day, slaves worked for their room and board and that was all. Today, they work for minimum wage or sometimes slightly more, but never at a level that could be considered over the poverty line. If your paycheck after taxes won’t even cover your basic living expenses like food, clothing, shelter, transportation and utilities, then you are a slave. Every human being on the face of the earth has the God-given right to all of the above plus a living wage, free access to health care and public higher education, and – most recently – to Internet access, according to a United Nations resolution passed back in 2011 that made Web access a fundamental human right. These rights are inalienable, meaning they are so basic to human standards of living that they can never be taken away. For more commentary including some books on these topics, visit my book page at this link. The titles are, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” and, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”.
“Try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” A modern version as I see it would read, “Be diligent but only as necessary, be respectful toward our employers even if you don’t like them (but never kiss their butts or play office politics), and be trustworthy. This last rule is the one that strikes me as having the same meaning as it did 2,000 years ago. Don’t be a good employee just because you think you have to, but perform your duties as if you were doing them for Christ instead. Never mind that abusive boss or foul-mouthed co-worker. This rule of thumb is one that works every time. And now let’s conclude today’s study of Titus chapter two.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No!’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live in self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the Blessed Hope – the glorious appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself to us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2, verses 11-15, NIV)
The “grace of God that brings salvation” is none other than Jesus Christ himself. When this was written, it had probably been no more than 25 to 35 years since the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, meaning His supreme sacrifice for us all was still fresh in the memories of what must have been tens of thousands of believers. Most, if not all, had the privilege of being taught by the very apostles who had seen and known Christ firsthand. Although we no longer enjoy this luxury, modern Christians can lay claim to the fact that their faith in Jesus, combined with maintaining a personal relationship with him, is as good as the real thing. Indeed, it is the real deal because the Holy Spirit of Jesus constantly refreshes and reinforces each of us in ways that run so deep that they sometimes defy explanation or understanding. This same Spirit is what causes us to reject the world in which we live, and in all the evil activities that are included within such as “worldly passions” and the pursuit of financial and material gain. If you are impoverished and reading this, take heart in your plight and don’t be depressed about it. God will reward you just as Jesus said he would, as it is written: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but they who humble themselves will be exalted” and again when He said, “The last shall be first, but the first shall be last”.
“ …while we wait for the Blessed Hope – the glorious appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ…”. Here we have yet another example of the apostle Paul writing about what has become known as “the rapture of the church”. The return of Jesus Christ to save the world has been foretold repeatedly by not only the prophets of old, but by Jesus himself. (See Matthew’s gospel chapters 24 and 25 for details, or Luke chapter 21) But there is a substantial difference between what some modern churches are teaching about this topic and what Paul’s original meaning here actually was. While it is true that a few individuals who have made themselves worthy enough will be taken up just prior to or during the Great Tribulation during the tyrannical rule of the Antichrist, this will only make up a small minority of people. The sad truth is that the majority of people here on earth, including a disturbingly high number of professing Christians, will not be ready when that time comes. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to heaven when they die, and it certainly doesn’t mean they are not going to be saved, but it does mean that a whole lot of people will have to pledge their complete loyalty, faith and trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ during extremely difficult circumstances. It means that many will have to come to the cross, confess their sins and renounce their old ways, and surrender their lives completely to Christ. Too many Christians today are living half their lives for Jesus while living the other half in the world, with all its phony trappings of luxury and hedonistic living. People, we can’t have it both ways. We must either be all for Jesus – or not – because Jesus is calling us all to purity, to an absence of hate and dishonesty, and to be an empathetic and compassionate people. Anything less is simply never going to do.
Jesus “gave himself to us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach.” This finishes making the point I started in the last paragraph. People who live their lives for Christ do not do so solely because they intellectually decide to. They live their lives for Christ because the Holy Spirit enables them to, like charging up a rechargeable battery. That battery requires an external power source to charge up, it can’t do so on its own. It is not by our will, then, but by an unconditional surrender of that same will, that motivates and propels us to be sold-out servants of Christ. In the same way Jesus gave his life for us, so we should reciprocate by living our lives completely for Him. “Do not let anyone despise you.” Paul was saying that Titus should never allow someone else’s opinion to dictate his actions or his speech, whether favorable or otherwise. But more than that, that he should take heart and be encouraged and so endure persecution, rejection and outright hostility wherever he goes. “For in the same way”, Jesus said about this, “their ancestors treated the prophets before you.” (Matt. 5: 12) And so should we, and that’s a fitting end to this study. So if you are feeling oppressed, or like you’ve run out of options and are unsure of how to proceed, take heart because of your plight. Tough times never last, but tough people always do, and so does Jesus Christ. Next week we’ll finish up the book of Titus. Shalom!