Meditations in Titus: 11: Teach older men
Titus 2:1,2 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Having dealt with a negative side of ministry – refuting false teachers and dealing with those who are flagrant in living unrighteously – Paul moves on to instruct Titus in the positive side of the ministry, bring guidance to the different groups within the church. To whoever Titus teaches, ensure that it “is in accord with sound doctrine”, i.e. make sure it lines up with the teaching of the Gospel and that conveyed by the apostles which is always in accord with God’s word. Everything that we are and do is to be in line with God’s word, which is why it is vital that we teach it, that we study it and think about it. As he said to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17) In a day of free thinking we must never lose sight of this. God’s word is our anchor and our guidance. Hold onto it, just as he said in chapter 1.
He goes on to refer to four groups in the church and the first group is the older men of the congregation. It is clear from the things he says about them that he expects older men to have learned from life, to have gained wisdom and that experience and wisdom will temper who they now are. Young men have a tendency to be just reactive to life and to do crazy things. The words that follow suggest that older men will have learnt and will no longer be like that. Let’s look at each of the six things he speaks about. We’ll deal with the first three in this study and then the second three in the next.
- Temperate. This word simply means restrained and self-controlled. When we think of it in respect of drink, we think of someone who is restrained in their drinking habits, who limits the amount they drink. This is someone who has learned what true pleasure is about. Excesses of anything causes negative consequences. Excess drinking causes drunkenness and so on. Excess eating produces obesity and health problems, and so on. The wise older man has learned these things and is restrained.
- Worthy of respect. Such a person has earned respect, not demanded it and they have done it by being an example of a gracious and righteous Christian. This man’s maturity is worth emulating. My wife had an elderly uncle. We went to his ninetieth birthday party. He was a widower, having looked after his bedridden wife for ten years until she passed away, and he spent much of his like looking after the elderly in his congregation!!! (He is not a minister as such). He lead a weekly Bible Study and once a term went and took the assembly at a local primary school. At his birthday they brought out a cake and somebody called out, “Speech” Speech!” He stood up and in ten minutes shared his testimony, presented the Gospel simply and ended with a funny story that basically reminded everyone you are either going to heaven or hell (for the sake of the number of unsaved people there) and then sat down. He was one of the most gracious men I have ever met. At the end of the party I thought, “Lord, for the first time in my life I have found someone I would truly like to emulate. Lord, please let me be like that right into old age.”
- Self-controlled. This sounds obvious, as you might think that with the first one, this naturally followed on, but I have noticed something in life, and that is that often in their latter years, elderly people lose restraint and just blurt out what they think. In their younger days they maintained a veneer of respectability and righteousness but sadly, deep down there were still aspects of their character that had not been taken to the Cross, just submerged under ‘what ought to be’. I remember one elderly lady who had been the pillar of the church, a well known speaker at ladies groups and yet I had always felt there had been an element of restraint about her that was not quite natural. Sure enough in old age she went into a Care Home and became known as a loud mouth who said outrageous things (and this wasn’t dementia). How sad. Self control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) and goes beyond mere restraint. There is an aspect about it that speaks of a person who has been trained by God, disciplined so that they maintain order in their life and they are not swept about by opinions or emotions. This person is an unmovable pillar in the congregation and helps bring stability to it by their example. We’ll see more of this in the second group of three characteristics.