Reverent Older Women

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.”

- Titus 2:3a

Continuing his definition of what constitutes “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), Paul next moves to the behavior that must be evident in the lives of older women. He devotes three verses to this description, which probably indicates the important role the older women played in the church on Crete. This is no surprise, for how many of us have not had our faith bolstered as a result of the faithfulness of our mothers, grandmothers, and other godly ladies in the church?

In any case, the apostle tells us in Titus 2:3a that older women must be “reverent in behavior.” What we said yesterday about the conduct of older men can also be assumed as part of what Paul means by reverent behavior, namely, that it includes self-control, dignity, and sober-mindedness, all of which are produced by the Holy Spirit as older women set their minds on the Lord (2 Peter 1:3–8).

Again we should note that the traits Paul outlines for these women in today’s passage and succeeding verses are not brought about apart from the grace of God through a firm commitment to biblical teaching. The phrase translated “reverent in behavior” in the original Greek includes the plural form of the word hieroprepēs, which was the term for women who were revered for being holy in word and deed in the first-century. The apostle is picking up language from the culture in order to show his audience that to be reverent in behavior is to act in a way that is appropriate for a person who is regarded as holy. Biblically speaking, this means that an older woman must conform to Scripture’s definition of holiness, which can only be known as she studies the Word of God (Ps. 119:9).

Paul also tells Titus to instruct the older women not to be “slanderers,” which includes maligning someone’s character to their face or behind their back via gossip (Titus 2:3a). This message is especially pertinent in our own day, since it is hard to find any sin more tolerated in the Christian church than gossip. How often do men and women alike repeat stories about people when they are not sure of their veracity? We are also apt to gossip in the guise of “prayer requests,” giving inappropriate information about friends and family to people who do not need to know it in order that they might “intercede” for a troubled person.

Coram Deo

There is much that we can do to keep ourselves from being guilty of the sin of slander and gossip. We can refuse to hear stories about people who are not present to defend themselves. We can refuse to ask questions about things that are really none of our business. We ought never repeat personal or sensational rumors we hear about people. Are you guilty of being a gossip? With the Spirit’s help, endeavor to stop this behavior today.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 19:15–21
Exodus 20:16
Proverbs 10:18
Ephesians 4:31

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