I took the liberty of collating and grouping the characteristics and assignments found in our two passages (Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 5:3–16). I believe this list provides both very specific instructions for what a young woman should diligently pursue and the way in which it should be pursued.
“To marry” and “to love their husbands”
The “love” in Titus 2 is phileo love, brotherly, or in this case, sisterly love. It indicates friendship and companionship. It is good to note here that an unmarried young woman practices this love of husband in the context of family with her biological brothers and her brothers in Christ.
Sometimes observers question whether a young woman should have marriage as a goal. It is important to note that the Apostle Paul, Pastor Timothy, Titus (acting as Paul’s ambassador), and the older women of the Church are all encouraged to train a young women in that direction. Not only should a young woman be trained to be a wife, her parents, elders, and older women in her church, should actively seek to help her accomplish this goal.
Some question Steve’s and my assumption that our children will marry young. On one hand we definitely continually call our children to higher levels of maturity and have certain ideas of the kind of faithfulness we must see in our children before we will deem them “ready” for marriage. One the other hand, marriage is the most efficient means of sanctification in our lives. We see no reason to unnecessarily delay this good work.
“To be submissive to their own husbands” and “to be the wife of one husband”
Submission is a word that is often sneered at outside of the Church, but the words in this phrase that most impacted our household was the words their own. When Steve and I saw that I was to be submissive, not to all men, not to other men (excepting our elders who we are all also to be submissive to), but to my own husband, it dramatically changed the way we view my employment. Perhaps it was emphasized by the many conflicts my outside-the-home employers and professors created in our marriage. Early in our marriage, I attempted to serve many masters and I found that I could not serve any of them well. It was very freeing to simplify my life by submitting to only one man, my husband.
To point out the need for a young woman to have a submissive spirit is extremely unpopular in our day. The pattern in Scripture points to a woman’s need for an authority in her life, whether a husband or father or her elders when she has neither husband nor father. 1 Timothy 5 particularly speaks to the vulnerability of a woman with no covenant head.
With this devoted allegiance comes the responsibility of the man to provide and care for the needs of the woman. In our home, we have vastly different expectations for young men and young women. In preparation for the role of provider, our sons work to purchase their own cars, pay for their gas, maintenance, and repairs, and reimburse us for their portion of the insurance costs. They purchase their own cell phones and clothing. They use the money they earn in their jobs to buy gifts and treats. Our adult daughter is treated the same way I am. She has the use of the family vehicles and cell phone when needed. Her father pays for her insurance. He provides her clothing and money for gifts and treats.
This is not to say that young women cannot engage in industry that brings income to the household. Rather it is our attempt to keep our daughters from a situation where they are tempted to take the providing of their needs into their own hands. They may contribute, but they are not required to. It also encourages a proper dependence. This does not limit them; it frees them.
“To bear children” and “to love their children”
Young mothers, to bear is not our modern phrase that means “to put up with,” but to physically bear children. It also encompasses nursing, training and teaching, and bringing them up. Again, it is appropriate for young women to strive for this goal.
Never in the Church should a woman be denigrated because she has chosen to bear covenant children whether through physical birth or adoption. That moms-of-many are sneered at rather than honored is a symptom of how far we have come from a biblical view of women.
In the same vein, young women should be trained to be lovers of children, including their own siblings and other children in the church. For this love to develop, a young woman must spend time in the company of children. Rather than seeing this as an injunction to enroll teen girls into nursery duty, a young woman would be better served spending time as a “mother’s helper,” an apprentice to her own mother or another mother in the church.
From time to time, I have heard a young woman say that she is not a “kid person.” Learning to love children is for many women a skill that is to be learned not a predisposition that is inherited. A conscientious mother is the best trainer. Large families are sometimes criticized because the older children are called on to help with the younger children, but this is another area where our cultural views are off base. Loving children is exactly what we should be teaching our older children.
To be “self-controlled”
Self-control is not in the self-deprivation or iron-willed control as we think of it in the context of being self-controlled on a diet. It is more like the old fashioned word sober-minded.
Often a young woman will go off on tangents, obsessing on one thing far too much. Often the object of her attention is a good thing, but too much time and emphasis is placed on it. Young women must learn self-control in all its facets—from rising at the appointed time, not hyper-focusing on projects, regulating her time for work, rest, and play, and applying wise limits to spending, technology, and activities.
The need for self-control assumes that there will be difficult things to do. One pitfall of the “bring your daughters home” movement is that without the demands of a job or schooling, a young woman at home is freed to pursue her own desires. Instead of living a self-centered life on campus, she lives a self-centered life in her home. Applying wise limits on pleasures and making ourselves do hard things guards against this temptation.
To be “pure”
If the lack of modesty in the Church is any indication of heart attitudes, there is a need for teaching on a young woman’s call to purity. Something that is pure is without spot or blemish, unsoiled. Impurity comes from the heart. It includes both what is brought into our lives, the things that stir up improper passions, and what comes from us.
Purity begins with a pure heart, a heart that is intent on serving the Lord with all your body, mind, and soul. Contrary to what many of us are taught in the Church today, one way purity is expressed is in the way we dress. Do you dress in a way that draws attention to you and your body, or to your Lord?
The rampant immodesty of young women even in conservative homeschooling circles is a direct reflection of our failure to persuade young women that the beauty of a woman’s body is to be saved for a husband’s pleasure and no other. Too often women dress to be fashionable, to be comfortable, and to impress other women rather than to please the Lord. Femininity can be expressed without sensuality, but it often means not following the styles the world offers.
Fathers, you are the gatekeeper of your daughter’s purity. You are the ones who were once young men, tempted and struggling. You are supposed to be protecting your daughters. Few of you are doing so. And as a mother of boys, I beg you to consider how our daughters’ clothing choices increase our sons’ struggles for purity.
While we’re on this topic, let’s also be clear that fathers need to guard their daughters’ purity by keeping high standards of accountability in place. There should never be a situation where you daughter could be subjected to the inappropriate advances of man, not in a car, workplace, social setting, or home. The Murphy family has the same guidelines for married and unmarried adults. Just as I would not go have a coffee alone with a man that was not my husband, neither would our children have a coffee with a person of the opposite gender. Internet filters and accountability are just as important for our daughters as they are for our sons, as well.
To be “working at home” and “to manage their households”
Years ago the phrase “working at home” got my husband in trouble as a Sunday school teacher because he naïvely assumed that we should take what the Bible says literally. Was that a naïve assumption?
Working tells us what to do. Not resting, lolling, entertaining ourselves, or crafting, young women must be hard working, busy, and taking their responsibilities seriously.
At home. That one phrase has caused much dissension in the Body of Christ since the feminist movement took hold, and yet, there it is. A young woman’s place of employment is clearly delineated. We chafe, we excuse away, we complain that we don’t know anyone else doing it, that it is too limiting, but the truth remains: older women are to train younger women to be working at home.
We sometimes get around this in our modern world by being physically present but virtually absent. The translation “guard the household” contradicts this fallacy. Young women are to be vigilantly home focused.
Some families, particularly those who came to certain beliefs later in life find themselves in a situation where there does not seem to be enough household responsibilities for more than one woman. We have also had situations where there is no mother in the home under whom a daughter could apprentice. If there isn’t enough work for your daughter to do in your own home then she needs to be in the homes of other believers under the tutelage of other Christian women.
I have heard young women complain that people in their church use them as domestic servants, doing other women’s cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Although this statement does reveal a pride that is contrary to a zeal for good works, it sometimes develops when families take advantage of the supposed “free help.” Frequently, the families most in need are the last to ask for help, while “takers” use up the energies of everyone around them. An involved older woman will quickly discern whether a young mother is lazy or unskilled and in need of correction and training or whether she is truly exhausted and overworked and in need of helping hands. When that need arises, young women without husbands and children should be the first to volunteer.
A curious development in the conservative homeschooling movement is that some fathers make their unmarried daughters their administrative assistants. They view their daughters like “mini-helpmeets.” This seems particularly odd given the Bible’s clear instruction for the older women (not men) to train the younger women. A daughter is under her father’s authority and protection, but she is her mother’s apprentice, not her father’s. This confusion results in young women who have are unprepared for or have unrealistic expectations for what it is like to run a home and have a family. It weakens the one-flesh relationship of the husband and wife and certainly decreases the father’s motivation to be proactive in finding his daughter a husband.
To be “kind”
The King James Version translates kind as good. It is a general phrase, much like when your mother tells you to “be “good” or as my southern friend used to say to her ten children, “y’all be sweet, now.” This definitely counters the bad attitudes that we sometimes see in women who work at home. There is no place for grumpiness or grudging obedience to God’s commands.
“Zealous for good works”; and “have a reputation for good works” [including]:
It is easy to fill in our own ideas of what the Bible means by “good works,” but I’m grateful that Paul gives specific examples of the deeds he considers to be good works.
“Bringing up children”
We have already discussed the need for young women to love children, but I find it interesting that Paul does not prescribe that young women bring up only their own children. Certainly, there is a great deal of openness here to taking in and caring for orphans and helping others with their children.
We confuse our culture’s view of entertaining with showing hospitality. Hospitality does not mean preparing special dishes or getting the house “company clean.” Hospitality is sharing what you have with those who need it. Providing a place to sleep for those who need overnight accommodations, inconveniencing yourself to serve others, opening your home to those without families, this is what the Bible means by showing hospitality. It is hard work but also good work.
“Washing the feet of the saints”
There is both the ceremonial act of serving another and the genuine chore of washing feet, and toes, and faces, and hands. The principle is the same: serve the Body in even the most menial of tasks.
“Caring for the afflicted”
Although our family has not had the opportunity to care for aging parents or grandparents, we have had a period of providing longer-term healthcare when Rich was non-weight bearing for three months after a car accident. That was hard work! The healthcare establishment was shocked when we chose to provide round-the-clock care for our son rather than paying others to do so. This decision ought to be more common in the Church and would be if young women, married and unmarried, took seriously their responsibility to care for the afflicted.
Afflicted persons can refer to anyone from a young mom encumbered by a difficult pregnancy while caring for other little ones, the elderly, and those with disabilities to helping a sick friend get to a doctor’s appointments.
In this little phrase, there is a whole worldview shift revolving around who is responsible for healthcare. Enough to say that if the Church, and young women in particular, cared for the Church’s afflicted the threats of Obamacare and other government controlled healthcare would concern us little. We would have our own strategies and systems in place for caring for our infirmed.
“Devoting herself to every good work”
The passages give us examples of good works. There are many more, but these specifically listed form a foundation of the calling of young women. We should look at these as the basic requirements to which other good works can be added.
Where We Miss the Mark
The goals and values of our culture skew the way we view these passages. For example, mothers tell me their teenage daughters are too busy with schoolwork to regularly help a young mother in need. Although I am not opposed to academic learning, I believe that if we take these passages literally, geometry becomes a lower priority during these important training years. Which is more difficult for the young mother to overcome, that she did not develop a heart of service and efficient housekeeping skills or that she does not remember how to complete proofs using AA similarity? Can’t she do both? Sometimes, but just as the need for child discipline often displaces the importance of completed schoolwork, so the needs of the saints should take precedence over other pursuits.
Where Do We Go from Here?
If young women are to internalize this teaching, they must be trained to it by older women. Older women have failed and continue to fail to train younger women. As a younger woman, I implore all Christian women over the age of sixty to please, please, please, take your Titus 2 responsibilities seriously. We desperately need you. If you did not choose a Titus 2 path in your youth, you still have much to teach us and to encourage us in, even if it is for us to “learn from what I didn’t do.” Until older women take their responsibility to train younger women seriously, the Church will limp along as a seriously handicapped Body.
If the married younger women to whom the Scripture obviously applies aren’t zealous in pursuing good works, the unmarried younger women will not be either. When mothers live selfish, self-centered lives, we ought not to be surprised when their daughters choose to do the same.
If fathers do not take seriously their responsibility to provide for needs and guide their daughters’ interests and focus toward a Titus 2/1 Timothy 5 focus, our daughters will perish with lack of vision.
The remedy for all these situations is repentance. As we dig in to the Word and see ourselves more clearly we will throw off the cultural hindrances that blind us to seeing how God’s instructions impact us day to day. With tender hearts we will be quick to obey. As we obey, we will be blessed with the fruit that God gives us when we obey.
See the first post in this series: What Kind of Woman are You?—3 Categories of Biblical Womanhood