Self-Controlled Younger Men

“Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.”

- Titus 2:6–7

Foolish living is described throughout the Word of God, but the marks of the fool’s behavior are given perhaps nowhere more clearly than in the Proverbs of Solomon. These wise sayings, though applicable to all people, are addressed first to the king’s young son that he might have his character formed with godly wisdom. Solomon warns him to avoid the wiles of the adulteress, saying that wise men exercise self-control in regard to their sexuality (chap. 5). He also explains that laziness is evil, telling him not to overdo it when it comes to rest and relaxation (6:6–11). Greed is likewise condemned (15:27), and so he must reign in his passion for money and other luxuries that he may not be led astray by wanton indulgence.

Undoubtedly, the key to wise and holy living has to do with the fruit of the Spirit known as self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). This is what Paul urges for younger men in today’s passage (Titus 2:6–7), probably because a lack of restraint typified Cretan society and is likewise all too common for young men in our own day. The self-control the apostle commends is not some kind of asceticism that refuses to partake in the good things God has created (1:15). Instead, Paul would have us enjoy the created order in a way that never allows us to become enslaved to it (1 Cor. 6:12). Even though Paul is addressing young men, this principle is of course directly applicable to us all and has been given to all people in the church (Titus 2:2–5).

In verse 7 the apostle shifts to instructions specific to Titus’ vocation. It is not that the qualities he commends are optional for younger men and other believers, only that elders, pastors, and teachers must be especially careful to model the good works of integrity and dignity. Paul is not calling for perfection, for that is impossible before we are glorified (1 John 1:8); rather, the Lord is calling for leaders who are honest with Him and with His people and who are diligent to work out their salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13). This entails the regular mortification of sin (Rom. 8:13), and it also means that Christians must show grace to their elders and teachers when they repent of their own sin.

Coram Deo

John Calvin notes the importance of godly leaders: “Doctrine will…carry little authority, if its power and majesty do not shine in the life of the [elder].” We have no right to expect perfection from our elders, but we are right to expect them to be an example for us in godliness, which is seen in a life of repentance and faith. May we show grace to our leaders and may they be reminded that they are models for us all, that their teaching of the truth may be heard.

Passages for Further Study

Judges 16
2 Chronicles 33:1–20
Matthew 18:21–35
1 Timothy 4:12

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.