Equal Value in God’s Kingdom Work - Titus 2:3–5, 9-15
What makes something valuable to you? Probably its usefulness, its monetary worth, or the benefits or pleasure it provides? Or perhaps if it holds deep meaning or has sentimental value. You’ve probably heard the saying that goes something like this: “something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” So is “value” relative? After all, the value of some things differs from person to person. Is the worth of something simply what it’s worth to you?
[We were unable to record the first 10 minutes of this sermon.]
All of us are naturally self-centered, and so we tend to determine value from a self-centered perspective.
And while we have the freedom to place more or less value on many things basically on our own needs and desires, our self-centeredness can warp our view of value. In order to love others and serve them, we need to appreciate what is valuable to them. Even in the church, a self-centered view of value can creep in. Take, for instance, what the Scriptures describe as the building of God’s kingdom, which means the increasing reign of God over the hearts and lives of people. We may treat certain individuals or groups of people as having greater or lesser value based on their God-ordained roles or gifts. Or we may place higher value some of God’s commands while disregarding others because of how important we think they are or how convenient it is for us to follow them.
But God assigns value to someone or something in the building of his kingdom based on what is objectively true and right. God is entirely good, and just, and wise and he knows the true value of all things. And in the Scriptures, he expresses his value system to us.
So we should seek to align our value system with His. Specifically here in Titus 2, as the apostle Paul describes how God’s people should live, he shows what God values in the building of his kingdom.
So what does God value? On page 6 of your worship guide, the passage is outlined to clarify three things.
In the building of His kingdom, God values:
1. women as much as men. (v.3-5)
2. servants as much as the served. (v.9-10)
3. and works as much as grace. (v.11-15)
Note that the third point doesn’t refer to the value of works in how a person is saved from sin. This doesn’t mean that a person is justified or made right with God by works. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone, not by our good works. But in the building of his kingdom, God most certainly values our works. The way that we live is very important. So let’s look at these together.
First, God values women as much as men. (v.3-5)
In verses 1-2, then down in verse 6-8, Paul gives instructions for the behavior of men in the churches on the island of Crete, and he gives instructions for the women also. Notice it says  Older women likewise.” The same reputation is necessary for the women as for the men.
All believers should behave honorably so that the gospel of Jesus is not discredited. How many times have you heard someone complain that Christians are hypocritical? Paul wants to eliminate hypocrisy, because he wants more people to believe the gospel. The gospel of Jesus is supposed to transform lives. How so? Well, Paul told the older men to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. The same is true for the older women. It’s clear that the lives of female believers are just as important as the lives of male believers
in God’s kingdom work. Women should be “reverent in behavior,” so they should honor God’s commands. Not slanderers, which is not making false accusations or speaking viciously about others. Not gossiping, not back-biting. The women shouldn’t be “slaves to much wine.” Interestingly, in verse 2 Paul told the older men to be “sober-minded.” That wording can refer to the use of alcohol. Older believers are influential. Be sober.
I saw an article recently. The title really says it all. It was called, “How Mommy Drinking Culture Has Normalized Alcoholism For Women In America.” The author is a young mother who discusses the steady stream of internet jokes about women drinking wine to cope with the stresses of motherhood and life. While the Scriptures don’t forbid drinking alcohol, and actually repeatedly gives examples of people drinking it, being drunk or addicted is clearly forbidden for both female and male believers. Paul reiterates that here.
As we read through this, keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list of God’s commands. These are select commands that address issues in the Cretan churches. Starting with verse 4, Paul specifically instructs those women who are wives and mothers. He says the older women should “teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”
Obviously Paul had some pastoral concern about this. And I think it points again to the value of all Christian women in the building of God’s kingdom. Here Paul addresses those women who married and have children and aren’t working outside the home. Sometime those women can be made to feel second-class.
This reminded me of the Desperate Housewives TV series that was on for many years. Turns out that show inspired the reality TV shows called The Real Housewives.
The Real Housewives looks at the dramatic lives and relationships of wealthy housewives in major US cities. The women on the show generally don’t display the characteristics listed in verse 5:
self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands.” I guess that wouldn’t make very interesting reality TV.
“Working at home” basically means “busy at home.” Not idle or without a purpose. Not lazy. So Paul is saying that if a woman is blessed to have a husband and have children, and if she can serve in her home as her husband goes to work outside the home, she should be productive and be a blessing to her family because in this way she glorifies God and builds the kingdom. You might think, “Well she doesn’t build the kingdom like this other person over here.” But again, we shouldn’t impose our sense of value on this stay-at-home mother and wife. She should behave this way, again verse 5, “that the word of God may not be reviled. Literally, “blasphemed.”
Why do so many people enjoy The Real Housewives shows? It’s because, sadly, the women are a mess. They have time on their hands, and so they gossip about each other, they drink too much and fight, they spend lots of money because they don’t have a whole lot else to do. People might think that it’s entertaining to watch, but it’s shameful. And for a woman who claims to be a believer in Jesus and lives that way, it discredits the word of God. It’s like saying that trusting in Jesus doesn’t change a person at all. It’s like saying that the Bible is just like any other ancient book.
In James chapter 2, James writes, “if you show partiality, you are committing sin.” Partiality is favoritism. In Acts 10, the apostle Peter states, “God shows no partiality.” So we know that God doesn’t favor men over women. Men are not more important. The Scriptures are sometime accused of being partial to men because of the roles of men. In Titus chapter 1 and 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives the qualifications for elders and deacons. And God reserves these roles for men only. It reflects God’s design for the home: Ephesians 5: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church. Because God has designed these roles for men, this is perceived as elevating or favoring men, valuing men more than women. But that isn’t true. For God to do so would be out of sync with his own character. What we learn as we read these standards for women in Titus 2 is that both men and women have essential roles in the plan and purpose of God’s church. If women didn’t matter, it wouldn’t make a difference how they live. Men and women are equal in Christ, but some of the roles of men and women are different. “Equal” does not mean “same.”
Think of it this way: when you pray, do your requests naturally drift to “God” in general or specifically to the Father and the Son, Jesus? What about than the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is no less God than the Father or the Son. But you probably forget about him because so much of his work and movement is unseen. He works behind the scenes, but it’s wrong to think of the Spirit as less important than the Father and the Son. In fact, you may wrongly think that the Spirit is beneath them, that he is not equal with them. But that’s not true. The Scriptures teach that the three persons of the Trinity are equal in power and glory.
Are you guilty of devaluing women in God’s kingdom work, perhaps because many women serve behind the scenes? Are you guilty of devaluing a woman because of her roles inside or outside her home? Husbands, have you devalued your wives? Women, have you devalued yourselves? Remember, you are the daughters of the living God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, according to his glorious grace. And your life, whether you are single or married, whether you have children or have no children, whether you work in the home or outside the home – your life is essential to God’s kingdom work in the world. When God saved you, he involved you his work.
Also, in the building of His kingdom, God values servants as much as the served. (v.9-10)
Paul also addresses those who were at that time bondservants or slaves and had become Christians. This section isn’t everything Paul has to say about slaves. For instance, in Galatians 3 Paul stresses the equality of all believers. He says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So those who were bondservants were no less valuable in God’s eyes than a free person, just as a woman was no less valuable than a man. The Scriptures are sometimes accused of advocating slavery, but that isn’t true. The Bible often recounts people’s behavior without approving of it.
As the New Testament church grew, the apostles didn’t urge slaves to revolt, but they clearly had no desire for any of their brothers and sisters in Jesus to be oppressed. And of course Jesus had no desire for anyone to be oppressed. But when Jesus came on the scene, his followers wanted a revolt against the Roman empire. Jesus showed them that he was not that kind of leader. They wanted a kingdom set up in place of the Roman empire. Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. It wouldn’t come in worldly ways. Paul knew this about slavery, and when you look closely, you see that the principles of the gospel are what led to the unraveling of slavery in our country. Important to understand also is that here in the early church, the slave or bondservant was often what we would call an indentured servant: someone who was bound to another for a fixed amount of time. Paul repeated referred to himself as a bondservant or “slave” of Christ. He also said that he was a “bondservant” of all and that Christians should be bondservants or slaves of one another.
Following his lead would cause all believers to reject the enslavement of other humans. But for the time being, bondservants were able to glorify God and build the kingdom as much as a free person. Verse 9, Paul writes, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,  not pilfering, but showing all good faith.”
Again, the gospel of Jesus changes people. It makes proud people humble. It makes angry people peaceful. It makes vengeful people loving and merciful. And when it truly transforms a person, their lives, verse 10, “may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” This kind of living adorns or prepares the way for the teaching of the gospel.
This may seem irrelevant, since none of us are slaves in the common definition of the word. But we all have bosses. We all take orders. We are free, but others have real power over us. In my early 30s I spent a couple years working in the business world, in a corporate setting, and so I experienced for a short time what so many of you experience everyday. Many of you work in settings where revenue and market share and quarterly earnings drive everything. After all, companies are in business to make money; if they don’t make money, people don’t have jobs. And the workplace can be a very ruthless place. Back-biting, selfishness, rivalries, dishonesty. Perhaps specific people or events come to mind for you. But Paul teaches here that for those who serve others, behaving in a Christ-like way can prepare the way for the gospel to come to those whom you serve. For these bondservants in Crete, their godly lives could affect their non-believing masters. Elsewhere Paul points out how the life of a believing spouse can affect the life of a NB spouse.
Do you value your role as a servant of others in the building of God’s kingdom? And for that matter, do you value those who serve you? How do you treat those who serve you? Do you respect your server in a restaurant or store or those who work for you? Jesus valued servants and much as the served. In Matthew 20, he said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave (same Greek word as what Paul uses in Titus 2),  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
“Son of Man” was an Old Testament term that Jesus used to refer to himself as a way of teaching the Jews about his purpose. To Jesus, servants were as valuable as those being served. Are servants as valuable to you? It’s natural to admire the great preachers. But do we admire and celebrate the great servants? Do we appreciate those who carry out uncelebrated tasks for the glory of God? If you don’t appreciate those who serve, you don’t really understand Jesus and his gospel.
And finally, in the building of His kingdom, God values works as much as grace. (vv.11-14)
When Paul finishes his instructions to the various people groups in the church, he gives the theological basis for the instructions on how to live. Why live this way? Verse 11: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Good works do zero good in saving us. Salvation came only because of the grace of God. And it came to “all people.” Of course, not every person is saved. Paul means that it came to all types of people: male, female, slave, free, every ethnicity.
But even though good works do zero good in saving us, they do much good in bringing glory after we are saved. The grace of God appeared, verse 12, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” You and I may not like all of God’s moral commands, but grace came so that we could keep them. So that we could resist sexual immorality, so that we could resist greed and hatred and lust.
So that we would draw a line in the sand and turn from our worldly ways. But we like our worldly ways. Why would we give them up? Why do you give anything up? For something better. Hebrews 11 states that those OT believers who trusted God and walked by faith did so because they believed that something better awaited them. It was the same thing Paul describes here in verse 13. He says those in Christ are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The Scriptures are clear that just as Jesus ascended to heaven, so he will return on the last day. He will judge all sin, he will gather his people, and make all things new. And Paul describes Jesus as the only one, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. That is Old Testament language. In Deuteronomy 7, Moses said to the Israelites,
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession.”
The continuity from Old Testament to New Testament is so obvious. One people of God. New Testament believers not replacing Old Testament believers, but rather, grafted into or added to them. All those who have trusted in him, both before and after the coming of Jesus,
are a people for his own possession. And in the building of his kingdom, their works are as valuable as his grace. He makes it so. He is saving people by his grace, and glorifying himself through their works.
The Puritans were 16th and 17th century believers who sought to purify the worship in the Church of England. Many of them held beliefs about living that were so strict, one author wrote, "Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Certainly there is some truth to that, but at the same time, ask yourself: Do you understand the value of a holy life? The value of obeying God for his glory and the benefit of those around you?
Today we remembered the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In a week, he would be crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected. Next Sunday we celebrate that resurrection. He is the only one ever to walk this earth who perfectly valued these things Paul describes. And he lived such a life in the place of those who trust in him. Do you see your need for him, and have you trusted in him? And if so, have you renewed that trust in him today? Let’s pray.