“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Tit. 2:7-8). In a chapter that began with the warning to teach “what accords with sound doctrine,” Paul addresses older men and women about the example they should set. There was a certain way they were to conduct themselves in order to teach and raise sound men and women of God – and the lesson similarly applies to us today.
Addressing each group individually, but obviously applying the criteria to both groups, the author includes being “…sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness…reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine” (Tit. 2:2-3). Of course, they are not the only things the mature need to display when dealing with younger folk, but they are a summation of good characteristics that will lead to effective teaching. In v. 5, the following are added, “…be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands…”.
The third and fifth may have been directed to women specifically, but it cannot be argued that the rest also apply to men. It is not as if men have the right to have no self-control or unkind because they are “men.” In fact, in the very next verse, Paul tells his readers to urge “younger men to be self-controlled.” What Paul is saying is that you cannot hope to be successful in teaching others if you are not willing to apply the lessons to yourself first. When we were preteens, my father caught my sister smoking a cigarette. He punished her by making her smoke a few in succession until she felt ill…and then he went to smoke one himself. BTW, that same sister smoked as an adult, so the lesson was a failure.
A smoker cannot convince someone of the ills of smoking, a liar cannot teach someone to be truthful, an adulterer cannot teach someone to be faithful, a violent person cannot teach constraint, and a prideful person cannot teach humility – not while they are continuing with those vices themselves. I once heard an adult use profanity in front of a child and then be called out by the child. The parent was obviously annoyed at the “rudeness” of the child and immediately had this to say in return, “Mommy is using ‘grown up’ words that are okay for us to use. We can use them, but you cannot. You have your own words. If you use mine, I will punish you…do you hear me?”
The same parent will later say, “You need to follow my example if you want a ‘proper’ grown-up one day.” Well, she was trying to follow her mother’s example, wasn’t she? That perfectly illustrates the phrase, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Paul directly addresses that fallacy with the words, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.” Be what you want them to be. Sober-minded adults understand that their actions are replicated more than their words alone. This is no different in the church. In fact, it could be argued that it is even more important. How absolutely shocking is it to see individuals preach that which they do not apply to themselves?
Raising good leaders in the church is challenging enough with all the worldly forces being exerted on young impressionable minds, so why make it even harder for them? Moreover, failing to live what we teach only opens us, and by extension, the church, to ridicule. Paul says as much in Tit. 2:5, “…that the word of God may not be reviled.” If you want an opponent to be shamed into silence, behave the way Christ exemplified with His life, and the Bible teaches you to conduct yourself daily. Remember, the future of our youth is in your hands. Don’t raise a “monster” and then cry when it acts like one.
Prov. 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”