An Overlooked Treasure
Scripture: Titus 2:1–3
An Overlooked TreasureTitus 2:1-3
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith
William Randolph Hearst is known as a very rich and powerful man. He was also an avid art collector. He loved beautiful paintings. Quite often he invested a fortune collecting priceless art treasures from around the world.
One day Mr. Hearst read the description of a valuable item of art. Emotionally he became immediately attached to the masterpiece. He desired greatly to have it in his collection.
So the man summoned one of his staff members and told him to commence a worldwide search to locate the painting and purchase it regardless of the cost.
After months of traveling, letter-writing, and phone calls, the treasure was located. His staff member returned with the following words. "Mr. Hearst, at last we have located the work you have been seeking to obtain. It was found packed away in your own warehouse." The multi-millionaire had been searching all over the world for a treasure he already possessed.
How true is it my friends, that some of the greatest treasures we desire are located right under our noses. Unfortunately this is oftentimes a lesson we learn near the end of our lives. That which is most important, most fulfilling and most rewarding are the treasures we already possess, the gold we stumble over in our pursuit to accumulate the vain things of this world.
We have a treasure chest or rare jewels right here in this church that few have discovered. In our pursuit for encouragement, counsel and admonition many have searched the world (not unlike Mr. Hearst) when some of the greatest resources are located directly in our own warehouse.
Who or what are these treasures? They are people who have already lived through the joys and trials of life. They are people who can provide a visible example to reinforce their spiritual words. They are people who personally love and offer compassion and receive follow-up unlike any book, seminar or conference speaker. They are our seniors, or as the Bible says - our older adults, or as they prefer to be called - our seasoned believers. They are a priceless treasure right here in our midst that many young people have overlooked.
Why is that?
I believe many factors, especially those that have surfaced in the past few decades, have contributed to the breakdown in this area. To many young people, older folks are at best people who need to be tolerated or at worst individuals who simply get in the way. But this attitude does not gel with the teachings of Scripture. For God assigns a high value to older Christians.
Permit me to share some examples.
To the best of my knowledge, only one command in the Bible is specifically addressed to children and that is their need to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). Even as we move from childhood to adulthood, all of us are responsible to bring honor to our mother and father (Eph. 6:2-3; Rom. 13:7). To honor our parents is even one of the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:12)! So important was the need to respect one's parents that cursing or striking a parent invoked the death penalty during the time of the Old Testament (Ex. 21:15, 17).
Even beyond our parents, honor is due those who are elder. Leviticus 19:32, "You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord." Even when the older are off-base, Paul commanded the young pastor Timothy: "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father…(to) the older women as mothers" (1 Tim. 5:1-2). Read the Bible through. Allow your heart to beat after God's. Sense His distaste and disgust when older people do not receive the honor, respect, kindness and love they deserve (cf. Lam. 5:2). God values older people and is greatly concerned as to how they are treated.
But beyond the inherent respect they are owed due to their position in life, there is a practical value of older people in the church also affirmed in the Scriptures because of their experience and wisdom (Pr. 16:31; 20:29). Older believers who have walked hand-in-hand with God through the peaks and valleys of life have much more to impart than simply head knowledge. They have learned the valuable lessons that can be taught only in the classroom of time. Though many today underestimate the worth of our senior saints, the Bible rebukes our folly and speaks to the contrary.
So as we move from chapter 1 in Titus, which spoke to the pastors, we turn to Titus 2, which now speaks to the people and immediately places a high value on the maturity of older believers for the instruction and stability of the Christian community.
Let's establish the context.
Two weeks ago we learned that Titus was to appoint leaders for the churches in Crete, namely elders (Tit. 1:5). Above everything else, they were to be men whose character was in line with the descriptions found in verses 6-9 of chapter 1. They were to be men who could handle the Word of God, lead by example, teach the flock, and refute false teachers (Tit. 1:9). You will remember from last week that spiritual wolves had infiltrated the church. They were identified as "rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers" (Tit. 1:10) and their actions were "upsetting whole families" (Tit. 1:11).
These individuals were leading the church astray with their words. Paul now turns his attention back to Titus and his words as he begins chapter 2. Verse 1, "But as for you (Titus), (in emphatic contrast to the false teachers), (you) speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (cf. Tit. 2:7b-8). For the health of the church, Titus was called to speak and teach the truth of God's Word, practicing what he preached, manifesting a lifestyle that opposed the false teachers (cf. Tit. 2:7a)
In other words, in contrast to the false teachers, you, Titus, serve the flock sacrificially rather than for the sake of sordid gain (Tit. 1:11). You love the flock more than you love yourself (Tit. 1:11). You strengthen families in their faith (Tit. 1:11). You do not let your deeds deny your profession (Tit. 1:16). And you speak that which is fitting for sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1). Stand in contrast to those wolves. Silence them Titus not only by your words of rebuke but also by your example and words of truth as you teach sound doctrine.
Titus was to be a teacher, and in verses 2-3 of chapter 2 Paul identifies those in whom Titus is to begin investing his energies. As you can see, Titus, as he worked with this new church was to begin instructing the older men and the older women because they are so crucial. Then as we will learn next week as we cover verses 4-8, these older saints are to instruct the younger ones. This is the aspect of biblical discipleship that we commonly call a "Titus 2" relationship.
So as we dive into this text, I know many of you are wondering from the get-go when a person is considered an "older saint" (notice I didn't say "old saint"). So at the risk of getting myself into hot water, I will seek to provide an answer.
You are an older person: When everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work. When your knees buckle and your belt won't. When you burn the midnight oil by 9:00. When you get winded playing checkers. When your mind makes agreements your body can't keep. When your back goes out more often than you do. When anything under a quarter isn't worth bending over to pick up. When the birthday candles cost more than the cake.
If you want to see some old men, all you need to do is show up for the end of our church flag-football game this afternoon!
Seriously, when we consider the content of what they are called to teach, an older person is probably someone of the age where his or her children have left the home. Possibly they are grandparents. If you are looking for a specific age based upon the Scripture (Lk. 1:18; Philem. 9) and extra-biblical writings (Philo, Hypocrites), we are talking about someone at least 50, probably over 60.
Titus was to target these individuals. In providing Titus with the goal of how these older people should act, Paul lists six character traits for older men and four character traits for older women. These should be distinguishing features of older believers mature in the faith. And though these traits should identify all Christians, they should be especially evident in the seasoned saints.
Before I identify the traits, allow me to be very clear. Age alone does not produce Christian maturity. But the Holy Spirit will use a faithful walk with Jesus Christ over time to produce the people that should be sought out and treasured by the younger believers within the church.
1. OLDER MEN
The men are instructed first in verse 2.
The initial trait that should identify an older man is that of temperance. We are talking about someone who is sober in thought, even-keeled and moderate. Young people tend to be up and down, emotional and impulsive, but the mature saint should have learned stability, consistency and balance.
He prays and waits on the Lord to save making a foolish or rash decision. He thinks before he speaks. He does not overreact to problems. He recognizes the hills worth dying on. He avoids false excitement but also refuses to be paralyzed by sorrow. He wisely controls his money, feelings and words. He is not tossed here and there by every comment he hears off the lips of another. He knows how to ride out the storms of life.
Older men are that rock of stability that is so desperately needed by the younger folks.
In addition to being temperate, the older man is also to be dignified or as the NIV put it, "men worthy of respect."
Babies are allowed to get away with more than older children. Because of their position in life, we permit them to suck on a bottle and play with toys in the bathtub and dress in mismatched clothing. We laugh at their juvenile humor. But when older children pull the same stunts, few people find it entertaining. A temper-tantrum of a one year old is met with more grace than a temper-tantrum of a teenager.
In the same way, younger believers are in the process of learning how to turn from the world and develop their character in Christ, whereas a higher expectation is placed on an older believer. We see this distinction in Scripture between spiritual babies and the spiritually mature (1 Cor. 3:1; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:13). When the older act as spiritual babies the church suffers greatly.
The text says older people are to be dignified. They are to have put the childish ways of gossip and complaining and faultfinding behind them. They are to be seen in the church as people of respect, not only because of their inherent age, but also because of their Christian maturity.
A dignified man avoids pursuing the triviality of life. He is serious not entertained by the offbeat humor of modern sit-coms. He lives his days in the light of eternity knowing how to manage his appearance, time, money and energies in a way that reflect the true priorities of life. His love for God and people is so evident that others admire him and naturally come to him for counsel. A dignified man has nothing to disgrace his character in the sight of man or God.
Next, an older man is to be sensible. The word occurs four times in this section of Titus (Tit. 2:2, 5, 6, 12) and even twice in describing the character of an elder (Tit. 1:8; 1 Ti. 3:2).
Similar to my remarks earlier, one commentator said this of the sensible man. "The senior man must have learned what can only be called the gravity of life. A certain amount of instability, of recklessness, of unthinkingness may be pardonable in youth, but the years should have brought their wisdom. One of the most tragic sights in life is a man who has learned nothing from the years (Barclay, p. 283).
Often a by-product of years of walking with the Lord is a prudent and sensible spirit. I am thankful for the older, sensible men in my life who have helped me see events and people through the eyes of God. Men who know the wise and controlled way to respond to a situation. Men of reason. Men of discernment. Men led by the Spirit and not their fleshly impulses. Men, unlike many young people, who realize they do not have all the answers and every situation is not always black and white.
Sound in Faith
The final three traits are all packaged together prefaced by the word "sound" (or "healthy").
First, the older man is to be sound in the faith. He is to have a strong relationship with God. His faith is to be unwavering. He is to testify to the younger people through his words and actions that God can be trusted because of God's proven faithfulness to him over time. He has been through all the temptations and deep trials of life and can testify that God was with him every step of the way. He knows God will be just as faithful tomorrow as He was yesterday. He does not question God, accuse Him or waver in belief, but lives his life before younger Christians as one of total dependence. He can say at the end of his life with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).
Sound in Love
Next, he is also to be sound in love both to God and others. He knows how to live out these two greatest commandments from Jesus (Mt. 22:37-39).
Regarding his love for others, he is able to overlook an offense. When unsure he errs on the side of love over judgment. He forbears and suffers long with those who bother or offend him. He makes time to be with others in the body of Christ. He prays for his enemies. He seeks what is best for others and the church even if it comes at an expense to himself. He seeks to serve others and bear their burdens. He avoids coming to church with a "what's in it for me attitude." He would rather be defrauded than see damage brought upon the bride of Christ. He loves in principle more than feelings or emotions.
Sound in Perseverance
Lastly the older man is to be sound in perseverance.
This is one of the greatest blessings I have received from the older men in this flock. They have taught me to persevere with God and people. They have taught me to endure hardship through the difficult times. They have taught me to cling to the value of a relationship over the desire to win an argument.
In summary, the older saints realize that life is not always favorable, but in the midst of adversity they remain temperate, act in a sensible way and persevere in their love for God and others. It is during these most difficult times that our true character is revealed. Here is where the dignified older men shine the brightest.
2. OLDER WOMEN
As we look at verse three, Paul now turns his attention to the older women. Like the older men, Titus was to teach them also distinctive traits that are to mark their character.
Reverent in their Behavior
First, older women are to be reverent in their behavior. John MacArthur described this as "outward actions of holiness (that are) dependent on an inward condition of holiness" (Sermon). Or as the older women told me this week, "One who stands in the place of God."
When we think of being revered, we first think about God. But as older men are to be dignified, older women are to be revered due to their character. Did you know older women above all people classes are to receive the greatest degree of praise and admiration? Just think of those closing lines that describe the virtuous women in Proverbs 31. "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord (a woman who is reverent), she shall be praised (Pro. 31:28-30). Likewise in the New Testament we read of the need to show women, especially our wives, special honor (1 Pet. 3:7).
Widows were common in the early church, and Paul spends nearly a chapter in First Timothy calling the church to care for these dear women. Then he adds a special classification for those who have lived a godly life. I believe it provides a picture of the revered woman he is speaking about here in Titus. "A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work" (1 Tim. 5:9-10). These women deserve top honor in the church!
There is definitely something special when we see an older woman, unlike so many, seeking to draw attention to her Lord and not her self. An older woman who makes it her priority to minister to her husband and children. An older woman like Anna in the Bible who at 84 years of age "never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers" (Lk. 2:37). An older woman whose adornment, 1 Peter 3, is "chaste and respectful behavior…with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet. 3:2, 4). A holy, reverent woman, precious in the sight of God and precious in the sight of man.
Not Malicious Gossips
Second, Titus was to teach these women not to be malicious gossips. In the original Greek it is only one word - Diabolos - where we get the English word diabolical. The overwhelming times this word is found in the Bible (34 out of 37), the writers used it to refer to Satan. I think this clearly communicates what God thinks about gossip or faultfinding or criticism. It is devil's talk! Few things are more malicious than slandering another person created in the image of God or another church seeking to do the Lord's work. Obviously if these women were tearing down others behind their backs, they were not in line with the reverent behavior we just discussed. The older ladies I know can steer a conversation away from these sins and spend more time talking about their own weaknesses.
Not Enslaved to much Wine
The third trait of an older woman also comes in the negative. She must not be enslaved to wine. Obviously it is hard to revere a woman who is a drunkard! On the contrary, she is to be one who maintains her senses and is controlled by the Spirit.
Like today, alcohol must have been a serious problem in the early church as this trait is negatively spoken of on many lists that outline godly character.
I wondered why Paul singled out gossip and drunkenness for the older women. We know younger people are commanded to work to avoid idle living, but what about the older saints who are retired? Did these women in the early church fall prey to the dangers of too much time on their hands and the human propensity to gravitate toward the flesh when we are not productive? Possibly-see 1 Timothy 5:13.
Teaching what is Good
Finally, returning to the positive, Paul says older women are to teach what is good. Again, this is one word in the Greek. Older women are to be known as those who "teach good." The verses that follow explain this more fully.
Who are their students? The younger women. What is their setting? Informal conversations. What is their subject? Primarily domestic issues of the home.
Just as Titus was to oppose the false teachers with sound doctrine, older men and older women are to avoid malicious gossip and use their words to instruct, encourage and build-up the younger Christians primarily through informal instruction and way of example. It is their responsibility to pass the torch, to bring along another Christian generation, to have a godly legacy that lives long beyond their departure.
The older Christians are an invaluable treasure in the church. With maturity in Christ comes the intended responsibility to honor God and minister to the younger believers. This is the model of discipleship. This is the mark of a healthy Christian community.
From a personal testimony, I cannot imagine where I would be if it were not for the older believers who made an investment in my life. I am eternally grateful! Younger people, can you share this same sentiment? Have you asked a seasoned saint for help? Have you like Mr. Hearst searched high and low for the treasure that is located in your own building?
Be sure to come back next week as we address the younger people and conclude this two-part sermon.