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Healthy Doctrine for Older Women

Living with Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:27
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Titus 2:3–4 (NKJV)
the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands ...
Famous Hollywood actor, Andy Rooney, said, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”
Yet, as the accomplished American stuntwoman and high-speed racer, Kitty O’Neill Collins, observed, “Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.”
The question for us all is not just whether we will eventually grow old but what we’re going to do when we get there. Will we do nothing? Will we check off the items on our bucket list of things to do and places to go? Will we learn a new hobby? Will we move to a warmer part of the country?
Thankfully, Paul helps us answer this question by giving Titus some personal goals for the older women in the churches on the island of Crete. These goals apply universally to older women in churches throughout church history and in the entire world today.
By “older women,” Paul likely envisions the same general age range as he did for older men, about 40-50 years and older, though age alone would not have been his only (or primary) distinguishing factor. An older woman was likely one who had lived long enough to experience life more completely than others. She had married, raised children, made a tangible impact on her community, navigated a variety of challenges and trials, and developed a more complete perspective of life.
Unfortunately, women at this stage of life and older can develop a cynical and pessimistic attitude and a more isolated, materialistic, and withdrawn lifestyle. Yet these later years in a Christian woman’s life should not be consigned to mere existence, binging on personal hobbies, checking off personal bucket lists, obsessing over petty concerns, and withdrawing from meaningful roles. Unless physical or physiological factors prevent her, she should be more confident, focused, giving, and joyful than ever before.
Thanks to God’s progressive, transforming work in her life – by grace over time – this stage should be the most fruitful, peaceful, and satisfying time of her life. To this end, Paul gives Timothy guidance for how to counsel, preach, and teach the older women in the church. These are topics which Paul calls “sound doctrine,” which means that these are the topics which pastors should emphasize for the older women in their church to help them be spiritually healthy. You see, as we grow older, our physical health may decline but our spiritual health should not decline also. We should become healthier!
Let’s look at some “vital signs” of spiritual health for older ladies. Here’s what Paul says: “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things – that they admonish the young women” (Tit 2:3-4). From this we see that older women play a vital role in the church, just as vital (“likewise”) as the older men.

God’s grace enables older women to behave in a respectable way.

To be “reverent in behavior” means to behave in a way outwardly that reflects a heart that is devoted to serving God inwardly. It refers to behavior that is “worthy of respect because of the quality of life”[1] that a person lives. It refers to a woman who is moral and devoted to God, who makes God’s values her values and God’s nature her goal.
Outward manifestations of this kind of woman may be found elsewhere in Paul’s letters to Timothy. Such a woman:
Doesn’t dress in a fancy, flashy, or flamboyant way that attracts attention to her wealth and appearance or gives the impression that she is wealthy (1 Tim 2:9-11).
1 Timothy 2:9–11 (NKJV)
The women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Relies on God faithfully in prayer (1 Tim 5:5).
1 Timothy 5:5 (NKJV)
She who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.
To her, prayer is not a duty or formality. It is something that she practices regularly, much more regularly than when she was occupied with raising children.
Does not live for indulgence and luxury (1 Tim 5:6).
1 Timothy 5:6 (NKJV)
She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.
In other words, she doesn’t devote her time and resources to pampering herself.
Commits herself to hospitality (1 Tim 5:10).
1 Timothy 5:10 (NKJV)
Well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
She uses her home, resources, and talents to feed, serve, and teach others. She shares what she has with others in need and doesn’t hoard it all for herself. In short, she does more than just pray. She serves.

God’s grace enables older women to refuse slanderous talk.

“Slanderer” here refers to someone who “throws” or “casts” wrong and hurtful information out against someone else.
This verbal behavior includes harmful comments and conversations that we call gossip today, spreading around juicy tidbits of information about other people which may or may not be true and which raise doubts about their character or sincerity.
This behavior especially includes harmful comments and conversations of a damaging and malicious nature and is, in fact, the same word the Bible uses to describe Satan as “Diabolos” because he seeks to ruin our relationship with God through Christ by broadcasting slanderous reports about us (John 8:44).
This word envisions something like a prosecuting attorney who is determined to persuade the jury of another person’s guilt or a politician who is determined to ruin another person’s testimony through a high-powered smear campaign.
For whatever reason, older women may be especially prone to this weakness (though all of us may fail the same way). Perhaps they gravitate this way because when their children grow up, older women may transfer their attentiveness to their children to scrutinizing other people and their children instead, critiquing their behavior and talking about their opinions to others. Older women should never spread hurtful, negative talk about others.

God’s grace enables older women to abstain from drunkenness.

“Not given to much wine” may be translated more literally as “not enslaved to too much wine” or as the NET translates this phrase, “not slaves to excessive drinking.” It describes someone who does not rely on alcoholic beverages to cope with life and who does not become drunk or intoxicated.
“As many of them have done throughout history, older people on Crete sometimes turned to drink as a stimulant and a means of ameliorating the pains, frustrations, and loneliness of old age.”[2]
Other addictive, excessive means of “escaping from life” may also apply here, such as binge-watching, gambling, overeating, oversleeping, smoking, and wasteful spending.
Whatever the case, older women should walk closely with God and devote themselves to serving other people rather than giving way to their fleshly desires in self-serving ways.

God’s grace enables older women to teach good things to older women.

Rather than be the source of criticism, gossip, and slander and rather than sitting around doing nothing but escaping life and indulging themselves, older women should be doing something. They should not be tearing down but should be building up. They should be teaching good things to other people, especially to younger women.
This is especially appropriate for older women to do since they no longer carry the pressures of caring for their own children. What’s more, they’ve learned many valuable lessons from having raised their own children, whether through failure or success.
Such experience, when paired with biblical wisdom, is a valuable treasure to share with younger women and mothers in the church who are still feeling their way forward. Rather than complain about or criticize these younger women, they should serve them instead. They should teach them how to behave toward their husbands, behave towards their children, and behave as a Christian woman in general.
While this teaching may include something like a ladies’ retreat lecture or a Sunday School lesson series, Paul likely envisioned something generally more informal. I would suggest that an older woman who is not already personally and sacrificially serving the younger women in a church should think twice before she teaches the younger women in a more formal setting, too.
The word “admonish” may express a slightly negative or overly harsh overtone. Words which may be a more helpful translation are “train” or “encourage,” or perhaps a concept somewhere in between the concrete-sounding “training” and abstract-sounding “encourage.” The idea here is “teaching in the sense of bringing people to their senses, showing what sound thinking is.”[3]
This kind of teaching requires gentleness, love, patience, and wisdom. It also requires a degree of personal interest, investment, relationship, and trust. Consequently, this sort of teaching and positive, personal influence highlights a special benefit of being a member in the church. Though your own children grow up and move out from your home, you continue to be surrounded by children, teens, and younger women in the church, which is your spiritual family.

How can you bless younger women in the church today?

“In towns that were strongly pagan, Christian women would go through the streets and marketplaces searching for abandoned newborns who were unwanted and had been left to die by their parents. Since abortion was both dangerous and expensive and birth control devices did not exist, an unwanted baby was simply abandoned at birth. Some male babies were raised to be slaves or gladiators, and some girls were trained for prostitution. Christian women who rescued these infants would give them to church families for adoption.”[4]
Now this is one way for older women to make a difference for Christ! So, what about you?
How can you shift your attention from indulging and pampering yourself or spreading unhelpful, hurtful comments and information about others to something more productive like encouraging, serving, and teaching the younger women around you?
What can you do – whether formally or especially informally – to not only be an example of a woman whose experienced God’s grace over the years to sharing with others what you have learned?
*****
[1] I. Howard Marshall and Philip H. Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, International Critical Commentary (London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), 244. [2] John F. MacArthur Jr., Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 77-78. [3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2005). [4] John F. MacArthur Jr., Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 77.
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