Recently I had a conversation with a woman who has chosen homemaking as her primary career. Now that summer is over and her husband and children are back in school, she is left at home wondering if joy and fulfillment can be found among the long quiet hours that await her each day. Many women her age have successful careers in workplaces outside the home. Media and the surrounding culture suggest that women should enjoy the convenience and freedom of the single life. Alternatively, women can “have it all” if they so choose marriage, family, and an aspiring career, which also comes with high-achieving children, exotic vacations, and a white picket fence!
God’s Word teaches that young women are to value the call to marriage and motherhood. Even so, there are women everywhere who wonder how changing diapers and cleaning bathrooms can really be a fulfilling way to follow Christ. It seems the values of the surrounding culture have had a much greater impact than the truths in Scripture about God’s high calling and purpose for young women. Pastor John MacArthur observes:
A new generation of young women has been brought up in a society, including an education system and media, that touts feminism and belittles biblical standards for men and women. In many cases, young women even in evangelical churches have not had the benefit of careful “teaching [of] what is good” (v.3) or the godly example of older women in the church, including that of their own mothers. Nor have they been exposed to the clear teaching of Scripture in Sunday School, in youth group, or from the pulpit.
This is a growing problem among evangelical women today, even though the Bible has more than sufficient wisdom on the topic.
In her 2015 book, The Accidental Feminist, Courtney Reissig describes the evolution of the feminist movement and how its values have crept into the thinking and practice of the church today. She correctly states that many Christian women are confused about their identity and role. Likewise, Dorothy Patterson observes that women “have been brainwashed to believe that the absence of a title, payroll occupation enslaves a woman to failure, boredom, and imprisonment within the confines of home.” Yet how did this happen? How does one become an accidental feminist? Mary Kassian provides great insight to this problem in her book, The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture. In her study, she takes a critical look at the waves of feminism and their impact on all aspects of society, including the church. Throughout her book, she presents the argument that the rise of evangelical feminism continues to have much influence on the identity and practice of Christian women.
There are a number of Scriptures that give insight to the valuable role God has ordained for young women in the home. The following will consider Titus 2:3-5, which offers seven areas of development for young women in the season of marriage and raising children. The following six sections will be discussed: Context; Love Their Husbands and Children (Titus 2:4); Be Sensible and Pure (Titus 2:5a); Be Workers at Home and Kind (Titus 2:5a); Be Subject to Their Own Husbands (Titus 2:5b); and The Witness of Womanhood.
Context: Titus 2:3-5
The context of this letter, is the apostle Paul writing to Titus on the island of Crete encouraging him to complete the organization of the churches (Titus 1:1-5), deal with false teachers who were in the church (Titus 1:10-16), emphasize the importance of sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, 2:1), and give instruction to churches on proper conduct (Titus 2:1-3:11). In the second chapter Paul gives instructions for the elders to teach proper conduct that reflects sound doctrine to older men, older women, and younger men. It is then the responsibility of the older women to teach the young women. Paul writes, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:3-5). It is important to note that Paul was not giving instructions solely for the early church. He gives three main reasons believers ought to live this way, none of which are merely cultural: (1) that the Word of God may not be dishonored (Titus 2:5); (2) so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:8); and (3) that we will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect (Titus 2:10).
The Bible is clear about the role and responsibilities of young women. Paul writes that the older women are to reflect godliness in order to train the young women in seven main areas. Most women will want to know, who are considered the young women? While it is true that we all have women who are older and younger than us, the Scriptures suggest that Paul had particular seasons of life in mind. The Kӧstenbergers observe, “The text does not refer to ‘younger’ women (even though some translations put it this way), but rather the Greek has “young” women. Mainly in view are those who are young in age and are therefore less experienced as wives and mothers.” The list begins and ends with an emphasis on the marriage relationship, containing three pairs, and one final encouragement. Verses 4 and 5 suggest that young women must be encouraged to love their husbands and their children, to be sensible and pure, to be workers at home and kind, and to be subject to their own husbands.
Love Their Husbands and Children (Titus 2:4)
Young women are to be encouraged to love their husbands and children. The Greek word philandros is to love one’s husband, and the word philoteknos is to love one’s children. Notice the order of priority given here for young women to extend love first toward their husbands and second towards their children. Young women have the high calling of prioritizing the marriage relationship and being a helper, according to God’s design at Creation (Genesis 2:15-25). She is to love her husband with grace and humility. “Philandros is a noun, here rendered to love…husbands, and refers to willing, determined love that is not based on a husband’s worthiness but on God’s command and that is extended by a wife’s affectionate and obedient heart. Even unlovable, uncaring, unfaithful, and ungrateful husbands are to be loved.” The second priority is for young women to love their children in all of the practical ways that families need to be cared for. Yet the most important thing young women can teach their children is to know and follow Christ and to commit to their ongoing discipleship (Deut. 6:4-9, 1 Tim. 2:15).
Be Sensible and Pure (Titus 2:5a)
The second pairing of characteristics is for young women to be sensible and pure. The Greek word sōphrōn (sensible) can refer to being of sound mind, curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, or temperate. Paul exhorts all believers in this chapter to exercise sensibility or self-control which can apply to restraint in a number of areas such as speech, emotions, finances, or appetite. In this specific context, it is paired with the encouragement for young women to pursue purity. The Greek word hagnos (pure) can refer to being chaste, modest, or clean. Towner suggests that self-control “was to manifest itself above all in dignified conduct characterized by restraint of the passions and urges that might jeopardize fidelity to her husband.” The main point here is that young women be encouraged to exercise self-control over their impulses, emotions, and desires in order to be fully devoted to Christ and their own husbands in thought, appearance, and emotional and physical intimacy.
Be Workers at Home and Kind (Titus 2:5a)
The third pairing of characteristics is for young women to be workers at home and kind. The Greek word oikourgos (workers at home) can refer to caring for the house, working at home, or taking care of household affairs. The emphasis here is that young women would embrace and prioritize the work of the home as valuable and fulfilling. While the Bible does not prohibit working outside the home, it does indicate that women are to embrace homemaking as a constant and ongoing priority, which includes the day-to-day care of homes and children. This can be extremely challenging for young women in a feminist saturated culture. Yet the leading of God’s Spirit and the clear teaching in his Word will help young women keep their marriage, children, and home all higher priorities than career status or excessive financial gain. The next quality for pursuit is kindness. The Greek word agathos (kind) can refer to being of good nature, pleasant, excellent, or honourable. In this specific context, Paul is exhorting women to practice kindness as they care for their homes. Many times we can neglect to extend the most pleasant or excellent sides of our personality to our husbands and children, yet they are the closest to us. As Dorothy Patterson affirms, “Homemaking, if pursued with energy, imagination, and skills, has as much challenge and opportunity, success and failure, growth and expansion, perks and incentives as any corporation, plus something no other position offers—working for people you love most and want to please the most!”
Be Subject to Their Own Husbands (Titus 2:5b)
The final quality to encourage in young women is that they be subject to their own husbands. The Greek word hypotassō (subject) can refer to arrange under, to submit one’s control, or to yield to one’s admonition. There are three main reasons why this is essential. First, young women are being called here to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself to serve others (Phil. 2:1-11). The humble submission of a wife to her husband most beautifully reflects the relationship of Christ and the Church. Second, young women are called to be faithful and obedient to all of Scripture, which affirms this principle of headship and submission. Third, young wives are being called to respect the leadership role of their husbands by helping their families grow up together in Christ. “A Christian wife should fully use her gifts and talents under the higher purpose of supporting the spiritual nurture of the household. In this sense a wife’s need to be useful and productive in the home not only applies to material duties (as in the earlier “busy at home” clause) but also to spiritual duties.”
The Witness of Womanhood
The relentless pressure of our culture to conform to feminist ideals continues to seep into the evangelical church. Young Christian women must be diligent and committed to seeking the truth of God’s Word for the joy and fulfillment that comes in knowing their identity in Jesus Christ and the high calling they have been created for. In his letter to Titus, Paul states seven characteristics that older women are to encourage the young women to pursue: To love their husbands and children; to be sensible and pure; to be workers at home and kind; and to be subject to their own husbands. Young women can take confidence in knowing there are clear principles that relate to their specific season in life for them to embrace and cultivate. Furthermore, the conduct of young women in the church can be a powerful tool for evangelism. “As opponents in the church and potential faith seekers in the culture examine ‘what is in accord with sound doctrine’ (v.1) through the behavior of the young women in the church, the Word of God gains credibility. The wonderful message implicit here is that what happens in the home as a result of a woman’s care is a powerful tool for the progress of the gospel.” For the glory of Christ and the furthering of his kingdom, let us encourage young women to take hold of their God-ordained roles according to the Word and not the world. May we not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove what the will of God is (Rom.12:2).
John MacArthur, Titus, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1996), 84.
Courtney Reissig, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design (Wheaton: Crossway,2015).
Dorothy Patterson, “The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective,” inRecovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds.John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 365.