“Tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.” ~ Titus 2:3–5
On the surface, this passage from Titus seems to suggest that a woman’s role, among other things, is to 1) be a good homemaker and 2) be submissive to their husbands. And wouldn’t you know it, many Christians have then taken these verses to argue that these mandates are to withstand the test of time, regardless of the current cultural norms and practices. In other words, per them, God basically wants women to marry and keep house, in all places and at all times, and that’s about it. But again, like the passages from Ephesians and 1 Timothy that I covered in the previous entries, there are a few problems with this interpretation, the first being that we need to again pay attention to the context in order to understand what message is really being conveyed here.
The standard Greco-Roman cultural expectation was that a wife’s duties were to run the domestic side of the household. Men were in charge, of course, but did give their wives the authority to rule the home. The author of Titus is speaking from this place, and tells his listeners the reason for keeping with this cultural standard in 2:5: “So that the word of God may not be discredited.” That is to say, women were to keep with this cultural norm for one reason and one reason only: so that the Gospel could be spread without causing unneeded stumbling blocks.
Now, I’ll admit that while Titus was probably not written by the Apostle Paul, it does tend toward typical Pauline thought in that it places the Gospel of Christ Jesus front and center: In Ephesians, for instance, Paul tells both husbands and wives to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21); in Titus, the author wants women to follow some standard cultural norms, not because that is God’s will for all time—the letter never puts it as such—but because if they didn’t then the Gospel of Christ may not be able to be spread to the nations.
Fast forward to today. Ask yourself this: Would the Gospel be discredited if women, rather than being mere keepers of the home, were professionals? Do women doctors, or lawyers, or CEOs, or nurses, or scientists, prevent others from accepting the good news of Jesus? Of course not. Only in certain Christian circles is this not acceptable (ironic, don’t ya think?). But in secular society, at least here in the West, there is no offense when women do more than run the home. In fact, much of the time, it’s actually quite the opposite. Women are encouraged by many of us to get an education, to start their own businesses, to write their own books, and so on.To that end, even if the author of Titus wanted women to be mere keepers of the home—and it’s likely he did—such a mandate is not applicable today for the sole reason that this is no longer our cultural norm (for the most part); and so, in no way is the Gospel discredited by women who bring home the bacon, so to speak.
This brings us to the second issue we have when we pluck Titus 2:3–5 from the Bible in order to silence women: we render ourselves as nothing but hypocrites. Why, you ask? Simple: because we don’t do this with the other mandates laid out in the letter (or in other letters for that matter). Case in point: take a look at Titus 1:5–6, which reads:
I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious (my emphasis).
And then there’s this, from 1 Corinthians 16:20:
All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Now, ask yourself: Are elders and pastors stepping down from their pulpits the minute their children walk away from the faith? Nope. If they are on their second marriage, are they willingly resigning after Titus 1 is brought to their attention? Nope. Are we greeting each other every Sunday with a holy kiss, as 1 Corinthians 16:20 so clearly says we ought to do? Of course not. “Those are conditional mandates, only for those who lived in the ancient cities of Crete or Corinth,” we say. Fine. Then why are we wielding Titus 2:3–5 as if it’s Thor’s hammer in order to shut women up in the twenty-first century? Suffice it to say, it’s likely because the injunctions in Titus 1 would effect male elders—and that just can’t happen, right guys?—while those in Titus 2 effect women; which, to put it bluntly, and as any honest person would rightly acknowledge, is completely misogynistic, patriarchal, and thus completely out of line (unless you want to be a misogynist). But sadly, it’s what all-too-often happen nonetheless, all because men seem to have it set in their minds that authority and power are theirs to have and to hold, and that women need to sit down, shut up, and clean up the house.
*If you like what is being presented here, be on the lookout for a forthcoming book I am co-authoring with Danielle Kingstrom. Also, if you want to support my work, please consider becoming a monthly patron on Patreon. It would help me out bigly.