Thursday, October 7, 2010

woman to woman (4c) a Titus 2 curriculum: biblical womanhood

God has given us an important role in the lives of younger women: to teach and train them in godly womanhood (Titus 2:3-5). We've seen how this can happen in all kinds of ways, like young mums' Bible studies, book clubs, and letter-writing. But what are we to teach? So far, we've talked about the gospel and sound doctrine; today, I talk about biblical womanhood (a huge topic you can read more about in this series).

3. Biblical womanhood

Women also need to hear about God's glorious plan for womanhood. Manhood and womanhood were not an afterthought in God's design for humanity. From the moment of creation, God made us male and female, equal before God, with different roles and responsibilities. The woman was made to be the man's ‘helper’, serving God in light of the created order (Gen 1-3, 1 Tim 2:11-15).

Titus 2:3-5 spells out what this looks like in the life of a young, married woman with children. She is to love her husband and children, stay pure and self-controlled, manage her home and practise kindness, and be submissive to her husband. This isn't an exhaustive list, nor does it mean that a married woman shouldn't do paid work outside the home, as long as this supports, rather than undermines, her commitment to home and family (cf. Prov 31). But it does show where her primary focus lies.

Yet we must be careful not to use Titus 2:3-5 to encourage women to idolize home and family. As Nicole Starling says,

These particular instructions to women in Titus 2:3-5 are meant to sail on an ocean of general instruction given in the Bible for all of us as Christians: without an awareness of that big ocean of the Bible's teaching about Jesus and the kingdom of God, the Titus 2 boat can end up bobbing around harmlessly and inoffensively in the backyard swimming pool of suburban materialism, going nowhere.2

Much teaching on Titus 2:3-5 subtly encourages household idolatry. Singleness becomes a waiting room for marriage, rather than an opportunity to serve Christ with undivided attention (1 Cor 7:32-35), and the family home becomes an end in itself, rather than a place to reach out to others.3

But Titus 2:3-5 encourages young women not only to ‘work at home’ but also to be “kind”.4 In 1 Timothy 5:9-10, the word ‘kind’ is linked to many good deeds of godly women—not just bringing up children, but also showing hospitality, serving Christians, and caring for the needy. A godly woman's home is not only a secure refuge, but also a base for loving, serving and reaching out to others.

2 Nicole Starling, ‘Transformed by Titus 2’, 1 September 2008, http://equipbooks.blogspot.com/2008/09/chapter-1-transformed-by-titus-2.html.

3 Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal (Crossway, Wheaton, 2004), the best book I've read on Titus 2:3-5, occasionally has this tendency.

4 ‘Agathos’, the Greek word for ‘kind’ in Titus 2:5, is almost always translated ‘good’ in the ESV and NIV, and is used frequently in Titus for the ‘good deeds’ characteristic of Christians responding to God's grace (see Titus 1:8, 16, 2:5, 3:1).


image is from stock.xchng

3 comments:

Cathy said...

Thanks Jean, I think you're balancing the emphases well. I wonder if, while the "biblical womanhood" theme is amputated from the rest of the Bible in one continent, we have the opposite problem in ours.

I have never sat in a women's Bible study group in Australian conservative evangelical churches and been taught about biblical womanhood. We tend to neuter our application of the the Bible as we study it.

My experience has been, that when we have made a point of studying manhood and womanhood (in our own group), it has been surprisingly controversial.

There seems to be something we find culturally repellant about the North American stuff on women...we just don't like it...so we dismiss the bits which are pretty clearly laid out in Scripture.

A long way of saying, I am glad you are doing a great job of this for Australian women.

I agree about idolising home making, perhaps it's not as dominant here as it seems to be elsewhere?

Thanks Jean.xc

Julie said...

I love this. It is so easy to idolise home, marriage, family and parenting. I remember feeling quite alienated when I was single and childless whenever I attended the morning service at church. Although many of the parishioners were friends of mine (they had graduated from the evening service), I felt I couldn't be a part of their talk about marriage, parenting etc.

Now that I am part of the "young families" crowd, I understand where they were coming from much more. When you are at home with small children all week (and distracted trying to follow them around after church), it can be hard to think/ talk beyond that role.

I still think we (and I) need to work harder at helping ALL Christian women to apply Titus 2 and at encouraging and embracing our single and childless sisters in Christ. As you say, marriage and motherhood are only PART of our lives as women and our main call is to make disciples.

Jean said...

Thanks, Cathy and Julie.

Next week I'll be posting a letter written in response to what I wrote here critiquing it from the standpoint of someone who thinks I didn't emphasise responsibilities to marriage, home and family enough. So look out for that and tell me what you think!

As you say, Cathy, it depends very much on which country you're from. Our American sisters go down the idolising path, I think; but we have the opposite problem in Australia: we're scared to stand up and be counted on the women's issue, and talk about what biblical womanhood looks like in practice.

I agree, Julie, it is helpful for single and childless women to hear teaching on womanhood that emphasises serving Jesus and making disciples.

It's hard to get the balance right! Not that it's about balance: it's about serving Jesus wholeheartedly whatever situation and season we're in, and this is always affected by our womanhood. But it would demand more than a short section in an article to spell this out.

Love Jean.