So now we come to the particular duties of wives. We have to remember the same distinctions we covered when talking about the duties of husbands. That is, we have to remember the difference between being and doing. Wives must be careful not to rush off to work through a list of do’s and don’ts before understanding that it all flows from a demeanor of grace, a gentle and quiet spirit.
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:3-5).
It is assumed here that the older women have a long and wise experience with their own husbands and families, and that in personal character they are holy, not false accusers, and not given to much wine. When the commands of God are given to particular classes of people, we should assume that there is a reason for gearing the instruction that way. Older women are told to be holy in their behavior—and holy means “set apart, distinct.“ They are told not to accuse falsely—to be zealous for the reputations of others. They are warned away from too much wine. Given this basic character, they are to be teachers of good things.
The particular things that younger wives need to learn from older wives are these: sobriety, which refers to more than just alcohol. Young women need to be taught moderation, to be temperate. They need to learn to be “into husbands,“ and “into kids.“ The words are philandros and philoteknos respectively. More on this shortly. They must learn discretion, which is very close to the first lesson. They must be chaste, which not only refers to sexual purity, but also involves the stirring up of reverence. Again, it means to be a lady. They are to learn to be an oikouros, which literally means houseguard, or housekeeper. Pay close attention to what the word requires. They are to be taught goodness, and obedience to their own husbands.
When a husband is called to do something, it follows from this that his wife is called to be a help to him in doing it. Recall that femininity is responsive, and not a competing initiation.This means that when a husband is trying to learn how to take his responsibilities seriously, and he doesn’t really know how it is all to be done, the wife should offer him genuine help. But what too often happens is that a young husband goes to take some action, his wife challenges him from behind, and he finds himself having to figure out a challenge on two fronts — and one was difficult enough. This principle does not deny the importance of wifely input, but rather insists on wisdom in the timing of it. Examples may be found in all manner of circumstances — disciplining kids, dealing with in-laws, controversy with a neighbor, and so on.
Into Husbands, Into Kids
Propaganda works. Secularist propaganda works, and often Christians will pick up on some themeepeart it themselves. Suppose of young man of college age wants to be an engineer, which is a perfectly honorable course of action, and he is asked about his plans at church. He says that he would like to be an engineer, and no one hoots at him. Now suppose a young woman desires to be a homemaker, a wife and a mother. She had better keep that to herself, because the vocation that God created her to love and desire is (in our culture) widely despised. Now of course, there is a way for her to voice this desire that would be bad manners (say, while batting her eyes at a single man who inquired), but there is no disputing that domestic responsibility, which God created women to glory in, is regularly insulted in our day. Married woman are routinely asked, “Do you work? Or do you stay at home?“ This problem is so pervasive it has to be considered as an attempt to shape and mold us. Do not let the world press you into its mold (Rom. 12:1-2), but do not overreact into a neo-Amish approach either.
St. Paul tells the older women what to teach the younger women. He outlines the general shape of the curriculum. From this we can draw out three basic duties.
A pleasant home:
a wife is always to remember that she is what makes a home pleasant to be in or not. St. Paul here says that she is to be sober, good, discrete, chaste, obedient, and into her husband and kids. Let’s call this the sweetheart principle. The flip side of this is that when this goes wrong, it goes really wrong. No one can make a home as pleasant as a godly woman can. And no one can make a home as unpleasant as an ungodly woman can. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman” (Prov. 21:19). “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov. 27:15). Many men do not work long hours because they are in love with their jobs.
A well-run home:
the Bible does not teach that a woman’s place is in the home. It does teach that a godly woman’s priority is her home. The balance between the two can be clearly seen in Proverbs 31. Christian women need to live in such a way as that the taunt, “Do you work?” becomes funny. This means, incidentally, that gadding about and “fellowship” are not to be substituted for the diligent work that the average home needs.
Home as a course of study:
the older women are teaching these things. The younger wives are called to be learning them. This means paying attention to your lessons. Study your husband. Study your children. Study your schedule. Study your virtues and your failings. Figure it out. The day is coming when you will be the one teaching the younger women, and you don’t want to be in the position of saying, “O, I don’t know, really. I just sort of muddled through.“