“Train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:4-5, ESV
Proximity to a child does not automatically translate to good parenting. There is nothing inherently excellent or inherently sinful about being a stay at home mom. It’s a wonderful opportunity many take and there is no doubt their children benefit from it. It’s also a route many are simply unable to take or choose not to take. These women are not in a lesser class of womanhood and are in no way less faithful to God or the Bible.
Yet if today’s text is taken seemingly at face value, the Bible is commanding women to be stay-at-home moms only. That is not to say it is an easy job in any way. It is to say that if this particular text is read without context or interpretation, a stay at home mom is the only occupation available to women, and that that’s exactly what God wants and what God has designed.
Consequences of a Literal Interpretation
Somewhere along the line we got the idea that a literal reading of Scripture is always best. There was a popular saying in my church growing up, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” It’s a statement meant to convey Biblical authority as well as a heart and life that submits to such authority, which is great! However, the unintended negative consequence of such a phrase and/or interpretative outlook on Scripture is that it communicates an overly simplistic reading, refusing to acknowledge the consequences and harm such a reading can do to others, such as women in today’s text.
Notice what this means if this text is read without context:
Women can’t be school-teachers, nurses, or secretaries. They cannot work any place outside the home.
They cannot be lawyers or doctors or real estate agents or media buyers.
They cannot be executives or physical trainers or chefs.
It seems logically inconsistent to call women to simultaneously be Titus 2 women and Proverbs 31 women with no other interpretation or context. The Proverbs 31 woman is a small business owner, a financially savvy woman managing more than grocery store coupons as she wheels and deals, selling and purchasing real estate holdings as she sees fit. The same people that point to Proverbs 31 as a guide for biblical womanhood will uphold the Titus 2 woman (working only from home) as a universally binding example of what biblical womanhood looks like. The two contradict each other without proper context or interpretation. In fact, this view would contradict many woman exemplified IN the Bible, not counting the hundred of thousands of women in the history of the Church, both ancient and modern, that have refused to be defined by such a narrow view of biblical womanhood.
The term “Biblical womanhood” needs to be reclaimed by those who have hijacked it to pigeon-hole women into a lifestyle not that different from a modern-day slave, useful for little more than child-bearing and cooking, treating their husbands as functional deities all in the name of following Jesus who uses women all throughout his ministry in tremendous positions of leadership, all of which occur…OUTSIDE THE HOME!
When Paul himself (who wrote our text today) finished the book of Romans, arguably the most profound and clear expression of Christian theology, he hands it not to a man, but to a woman, a deacon named Phoebe, to deliver and lecture upon. Phoebe probably didn’t live in a van (the only way she could have delivered Romans while never working outside the home…)
Where do we go from here? Now that we’ve established that a simple interpretation of women are always supposed to work in the home is both harmful and inaccurate, how DO we interpret this text? This is where many objectors to this text fail because they just dismiss it. But as committed Christians, we must take all of the Bible seriously and wrestle to understand every part of it, not just that which is comfortable.
Paul is writing about the women in Titus’ church on the island of Crete, a place infamous for unheard levels of laziness and lifestyles that would make a sloth look productive. Could it be that these women were simply being lazy? There would not have been many, if any, opportunities for them to work at all outside the home in their male-dominated Greco-Roman culture.
This helps us rule out the possibility of an interpretation which applies Paul’s words here to all women in all cultures at all times, especially those in today’s modern, Western society that have endless opportunities to work and do/accomplish what they feel led by God to do, both inside and outside the home.
Paul is simply calling women to be devoted mothers and faithful wives, much like he calls men to be devoted fathers and faithful husbands in Ephesians 5.
It is important for wives to love their husbands; it is also important for husbands to love their wives (Eph 5:25). It is important for mothers to love their children; it is also important for fathers to love their children. It is important for young women to be self-controlled and pure; it is also important for young men to be self-controlled and pure (2 Timothy 2:22). It is important for women to be kind; it is important for everyone to be kind (Colossians 3:12).
Don’t ignore the hard texts. Keep seeking understanding and let’s stay humble together. You can be a Titus 2/Proverbs 31/ Jesus lovin’ woman and be the best Nurse Practitioner (so proud of my wife!) (insert your profession here).
Stay at Home Moms? You’re heroes! And I’m cheering for you big time.
Working Mommas? You’re heroes! And I’m cheering for you big time.
Titus 2 reminds godly, young women to not forsake their responsibilities as a wife and mother at home for the sake of their career or any other pursuit, and to remember that their true identity comes not from being able to produce/accomplish something, but from being known and loved by Jesus.
That’s a good reminder for us all.