When the issue of women in ministry is brought up, one of the scripture passages that is used as a slam-dunk women-must-stay-in-the-home passage is Titus 2:3-5. Is this passage really about women restricted to the area of the home with cooking, cleaning and raising children, or are women allowed by God to use their spiritual gifts outside the home as well? Let’s have a close look at the passage to see if we have been influenced by modern myths.
Titus 2:3-5 Older women (literally women elders) likewise are to be reverent (literally meaning such as becomes sacred persons, venerable) in their behavior (literally meaning to make or ordain, position or state), not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine (same qualifications as to the venerable, reverend, reputable, dignified women from 1 Timothy 3:11), teaching what is good, so that they may encourage (literally meaning to disciple, admonish, exhort earnestly) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home (literally meaning watchers or watchmen of the home taking oversight of household affairs), kind, being subject to their own husbands (literally to subject oneself to one’s admonition or advice – doing good for the other and putting their good first place), so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Myth #1 The woman is not the head of the home so she does not have authority but is under authority in her home.
Scripture tells us that the woman has a great deal of authority in how she rules her home and she is indeed a ruler. In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul says:
1 Timothy 5:14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house (literally to be master or head of a house, To be master of a house exercising authority, with the emphasis on absolute rule, as of a despot, to rule a household, manage family affairs), and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
Paul says that the woman is the ruler or master of her house and she is to be this ruler providing oversight as a watchman of the home so that there is no occasion for the enemy to bring an accusation or reproach. How is this to be accomplished? Scripture tells us how she does this. In Proverbs 31 the perfect despot of the home is described as an excellent wife of great worth. The term “excellent” literally means “strength and influence, one who is able to judge, righteous in behavior. It is often used to imply a financial influence.”
This Proverbs 31 woman, or in the New Testament the Titus 2 woman, has great influence and she oversees her household servants. She has great authority and she uses this authority for good and to bring honor to her husband.
Myth #2 The only realm that belongs to a woman is her home.
Since the precursor to the Titus 2 woman is the Proverbs 31 woman, we can learn a great deal how God views a well respected wife and mother. What we find is that her influence is not just in the home. She devises a plan or an agenda, conceives an idea, and determines a course of action and from that plan, she buys a field (WordStudy Dictionary meaning for zamam or “considers”)
Proverbs 31:16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard
Verses 18, 24 shows that her dealings make a profit for the family.
Proverbs 31:18 She senses that her gain (literally profit) is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.
Proverbs 31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
The woman’s realm is also in the marketplace, the workplace and in the financial realm.
Myth #3 A woman’s teaching belongs to women and children alone
Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
The Proverbs 31 woman “opens her mouth”. The Hebrew word for open means to open wide, specifically to loosen, break forth, let go free. What does she open her mouth to freely let out? She lets out “wisdom”. The Hebrew word for wisdom means wisdom, skill, shrewdness, experience in administration, in religious affairs. It is the word that is personified regarding God’s wisdom that was used in creation.
“The teaching of kindness” is literally the Torah or Law of kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, love, acts of kindness. Where is her teaching and her acts of kindness found to be influential? Verse 31 tells us that it is in the very gates of the city.
Proverbs 31:31 Giver her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
This verse is amazing because of the patriarchal system of that day. This woman is known in the gates of the city and here she receives praise. This is the same place where her husband is known (verse 23). The gates of the city is where the elders and the councils meet and is a place for public dignity, public affairs and where judicial responsibilities are conducted. This is the place where her works, her teaching and her kindness are known. No wonder her husband praises her.
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her saying:
Proverbs 31:29 Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
The woman who fears the LORD is one who will do what is right and she will open her mouth to teach so that her works are known even where men gather to judge and rule. Her teaching and her kindness are universally known among both men and women.
Myth #4 The woman is under the man’s rule and she takes her orders from him
In Proverbs 31:10, 11 we find that the Proverbs woman is a woman of strength who does not need her husband to rule her.
Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
Proverbs 31:11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.
Remember that the word “excellent” means strength and influence. The Hebrew word for “trust” is a verb indicating to trust, to be confident. It expresses the feeling of safety and security that is felt when one can rely on someone. It is used to show trust in God. It is also an expression that can also relate to the state of being confident, secure, without fear.
How does this Proverbs 31 wife submit to her husband? She submits to complete him and do him good.
Proverbs 31:12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
She is a woman of strength.
Proverbs 31:17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong.
The Hebrew word for “strength” refers to strength and power. It is the same word used of the Lord as one’s strength. The word for “strong” is the Hebrew word that means strong, determined, bold, courageous; conquer. Because of her courageous and strong attitude and work, she brings her husband honor.
Proverbs 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
No wonder her husband honors her, praises her and entrusts all the affairs of the home to her. Her teaching and work outside the home also brings him honor. Her work brings him honor so that he is known in the public areas of influence in the city.
The Titus 2 woman is reflection of God’s ideal woman first given in Proverbs 31. She is an elder (literally presbutidas) who is temperate, self-controlled, a teacher of the good. She teaches the women coming after her to be courageous, strong women in charge of their own home, respecting their husbands and doing good for them so that they too are respected in public because of her godly actions.
For those who think that Titus 2 restricts women to the sphere of the home and to the influence only of women and children, remember one thing…the Titus 2 woman cannot be any less than the Proverbs 31 woman. The coming of Christ into the world that freed us to be a kingdom of priests could not possibly have caused women to be restricted in any way that the godly women of the Old Testament were not restricted. It isn’t possible that the Old Testament women are to be freer to exercise their rule and their public teaching than women in Christ today.
Have we fallen for modern myths about the “role” of the godly woman? It is time to rethink the Titus 2 woman and see her as the strong woman of courage who uses her God-given gifts inside and outside the home to bring honor to the Lord and respect and honor to her husband. He will indeed trust her fully and in her he will find a refuge of safety.