When Luke referred to his biography of Jesus, he summed it up in this way: “I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen” (Acts 1:1-2 NET).
What we do and what we teach must go together. We see that in Jesus’ life: he not only taught the way to live, he lived that way.
When Paul wrote to Titus, he emphasised the same thing: “But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching” (Titus 2:1). Behavior, what we do, and ‘sound’ teaching, what we tell others we need to be doing as a Christian, must go together. The two cannot be separated.
Paul goes on to detail specific behavior that Christians need to be doing. He begins with those who are older men. “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance” (Titus 2:2). Men who are older need to be the examples for those who are younger. They have the experience and can show what it means to consistently live for Jesus no matter what may happen.
“Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Notice that older women have an important role in God’s family. They are to live lives that teach others what it means to live a ‘holy’, set apart, life. This includes watching what they say about others as well as controlling alcohol – and the two are related as alcohol can loosen inhibitions so that we might say something about others that is derogatory. In this way, they will be training younger women in the lives they should lead. We can see as well that if we are living uncontrolled lives we will discredit the message of God – how we live and what we teach go hand-in-hand.
“Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:6-8)
Younger men must also learn self-control. When we have self-control, when our lives and our message align, we are able to declare a message that cannot be criticised. One of the easiest ways to discredit someone is when they say one thing but do something else. If what we say is what we do, we take away the criticism that people often use against Christians. We must not only teach the way to live, we must be the example of what doing good is all about.
“Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted and not talk back, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, in order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” (Titus 2:9-10)
Although slavery in western society is no longer accepted, the instructions we find here would apply to Christians who are in employment. Even at work we must show what it is to be a Christian by what we do and say. This, too, brings credit to the teaching of God.
As we enter 2020, let us strive to have proper 20/20 spiritual vision – by making sure that what we teach and what we do are the same, so that we can bring glory to God.
Readings for next week: Titus 1-3; 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1-2