From the beginning of the early church, there is a concern for the impoverished and for effective alleviation of poverty. Right off the bat, early Christians are pooling their resources for the sake of the marginalized and impoverished. Early Christians sold their stuff so that they could share resources with the hurting (Acts 2:44–45). Self-sacrifice is a core part of the gospel. That's the core story behind my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. Here are three principles that emerge in the Jesus' Economy book.

1. Jesus’ Economy is Based on Self-Sacrifice

We have to be willing to sacrifice our own comforts for the sake of the impoverished. I can’t look at the situation in Bihar, India—where millions of people are living in extreme poverty—and deny them clean water or economic opportunities. As a Christian, I should experience a conversion in those moments of witnessing poverty. I should be inspired to give of my time and resources to empower the poor. I should be willing to go so far as to sell my house and my belongings. That’s at least what Jesus told one man (Matthew 19:16–22).

That’s precisely what my wife and I did—we put all of our resources into empowering the impoverished and bringing the gospel to the unreached. We sold our house and our stuff, for the sake of the mission. I’m not saying this to boast, because I can tell you that there is no glory in it. I’m saying this to note that I’m not asking you to do something I haven’t done myself. I’m also not saying everyone’s journey will be so radically life altering, but I do ask, “Are you giving enough that it hurts?” That’s the model of the early church.

Jesus has a different economy in mind than the one on offer in our world. He believes in empowering the impoverished. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice. Jesus’ currency is love.

2. Jesus’ Economy Means Giving Joyously and Intelligently

When the earliest Christians gave, it wasn’t about guilt (2 Corinthians 9:6–7). And likewise, their love wasn’t an empty love—one where I give of my resources without thought of relationship. I believe in intelligent love and I believe in love that calls people to a higher standard. I believe in this because the early church did. I also believe in love that respects the value of hard work (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7–8). There is a time for charity, such as meeting a basic need like clean water, but people also need economic opportunities. They need jobs. 

The early church built intelligence in their giving. We see this in the appointment of deacons—following an issue over distribution of charity to widows, one of the most impoverished groups of the day (Acts 6:1–7). Jesus would have us give in ways that multiply and to think about how we’re giving and to whom we’re giving.

This is why I believe in job creation efforts being a core part of the work of the church. We can meet a person’s need today or we can give them the ability to meet their own need tomorrow. But no matter what we do, showing Jesus’ love in word and deed should be our mission. We should live on mission and empower missions, so that all can know Jesus.

3. Jesus’ Economy Means Living on Mission and Empowering Others

The early church sent missionaries out, but their goal was to train and empower local leadership. Much of 1 Timothy and Titus is about this—the appointment of local elders and deacons. We also see Paul in 1–2 Thessalonians and 1–2 Corinthians working to instruct local leaders on how to lead their own church. Paul’s model was always about raising up indigenous leaders. 

Today, we can do the same. We need to empower local leadership around the world. What we need is to sponsor indigenous church planting movements and to empower them with quality, Bible-focused training. And we need to empower them with strong project management, resources for community development, and let them sit at the center of an effort to renew a community.

Churches around the world should partner together, for the sake of both bringing the gospel to unreached people groups and to meet basic needs. And where there are needs to be met, we should meet them. Near the end of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he requests that they join him and other churches in bringing together an aid package for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26–29).

As Christians, we need to have a holistic approach to life transformation. We need to be about creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs—one community at a time.

Imagine what could be if the church functioned this way—if we looked at the biblical model of self-sacrifice and lived with the principles of the early church in mind. Imagine how different our world be. Imagine what would happen if we had a truly Jesus economy in mind at all times.*


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live the currency of love.

 

*While writing my book Jesus' Economy, I published the above article as, "Jesus' Has an Entirely Different Economy in Mind."

When we think about God’s plans in the world, we tend to think big. We have grandiose visions of what God could do. And while God’s plans certainly are big, it’s in the small things that he often does his work.

The end of Paul’s letter to Titus, his young apprentice, is a beautiful illustration of how God works in the small things, like friendship. Titus is on Crete; he is there to appoint leaders and help organize Christian communities. Paul, realizing that this is a temporary appointment that would ultimately mean Titus’ departure, says the following:

“As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:12–15 NIV).

Here we see a glimpse of Paul the apostle, not as the lone ranger we so often envision, but as a member of a larger ministry team. It is among friends that Paul goes about his mission, and we should do the same.

By observing the historical details of Titus 3:12–15, we can learn five things about Christian leadership. Each principle points back to God working in the small things, especially among friends who go about God's work together.

1. Local Leaders Should Always Be Empowered

We should emulate Paul’s view that communities often do not need outsiders long term; the locals are empowered for mission through Titus and then he is instructed to leave (Titus 1:5–9). Following Titus' departure, other Christian leaders (with different skill sets) will come alongside the local leaders to accomplish God's mission.

2. Different Phases of Ministry Require Leaders with Different Skills

In Titus’ place will be Artemas and Tychicus. We don’t know much about Artemas: this is the only mention of him. But Tychicus is mentioned multiple times in Paul’s letters. He was from Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and was part of Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). Tychicus is often depicted in a messenger role, as someone who would bring Paul’s words to a Christian community; he does this for the Christians at Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12), Colossae (Col 4:7), and Crete (Titus 3:12).

3. Unforeseen Problems Can Be Used for Great Good

It appears that Paul plans for Titus to meet him in Nicopolis in Achaia near Corinth. These plans would ultimately be interrupted by Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, which was his second imprisonment. But God would use these circumstances for good, as Paul would write 2 Timothy from that imprisonment.

4. Full-Time Ministry is Only One Type of Ministry

Paul’s friendships were not just people in full-time ministry. Many of his ministry colleagues were craftsmen or had other trades. We see this in his note that Titus should “help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way.” While we don’t know anything else about Zenas from the New Testament, church tradition holds that he would go on to be the bishop of Diospolis (called Lydda in the New Testament).

But Apollos we know quite a bit about: there is an account in Acts 18:24–28, where Paul’s craftsmen colleagues and husband-and-wife team Priscilla and Aquila explain to Apollos about the baptism of Jesus. Up to this point, he only knew about the baptism of John. Apollos then became one of the first Christian apologists, arguing publicly with Jewish leaders who disputed the gospel of Jesus and sought to persecute Christians. It was his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures that made Apollos such a strong speaker.

5. All Christians Can Contribute to Jesus' Ministry

Ultimately, Paul saw all of these friendships—with each person having their own unique skills—as contributing to the work of the gospel. His goal for Titus and these other leaders is simple: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14 NIV).

Friendship is Where Gospel Work Begins

The gospel for Paul is a gospel of social action. And this action emerged out of friendships; it emerges out of authentic relationships. Paul demonstrates this again when he says, “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15 NIV). This is a network of Christians doing good for Jesus.

When was the last time you stepped back to look at your friendships and ask God, how can these relationships be used for the good of my community? How can my friendships do good for your kingdom? This isn’t to say that we treat friendship in a utilitarian fashion, as something to be used for another purpose. Instead, it is that we understand that friendships have multiple purposes: they are there for the relationship and for the blessings that come from that, but they are also there for God’s grand working in the world.

In the simple and normal parts of life, we find a God who is active, using our friendships for the good of our communities and world.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

There is nothing straightforward about ministry. As soon as people get involved, things get messy. It’s not as if the earliest Christians were exempt from this reality. Like us, the early Christians had their own baggage, their own cultural norms, and their own problems. How are we to go about having a healthy ministry environment when so many of us have so many issues?

How are we to discern between what our culture tells us is best for our community and God’s vision for community? Titus 3:8–11 can be understood as a framework for a ministry built on healthy relationships.

How Do We Create a Relationally Healthy Ministry?

In recent years, there has been a major push to have emotionally healthy ministry environments, and I heartily agree (e.g., Pete Scazzero's push for Emotionally Healthy Discipleship). But long before the modern popularity of emotionally healthy ministry, Paul wrote to his young apprentice Titus about similar issues.

The letter to Titus is written to the churches on Crete. Paul had left Titus there to appoint new leaders and guide the fledgling Christian communities for a season. As we read the letter to Titus, it becomes apparent that this is no easy task. These people have some serious issues—and don’t we all? In Titus 3:8–11, Paul says:

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned” (Titus 3:8–11 NIV).

“This is a trustworthy saying,” says Paul. This is a common phrase or formula in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus (occurring five times). It could be Paul’s way of demarcating a quotation or simply an affirmation that what he is saying is true (i.e., a form of rhetoric). It could even be that the formula is early liturgy (e.g., the reader could say “This saying is trustworthy,” and the congregation could respond, “This saying is trustworthy indeed”).

The idea of liturgy is the thread of thought I want to follow; not because I’m completely sold that the formula “the saying is trustworthy” was indeed early Christian liturgy, but because I think it leads to a practical application. Following this train of thought, I think we see in Titus 3:8–11 four principles for relationally healthy ministry.

1. Create a “Counterliturgy” to Culture

The first step in creating an emotionally healthy ministry environment is to live a different liturgy than our culture—to immerse ourselves in a different narrative, story, or rhythm of life. James K. A. Smith has called this, a “counterliturgy” (You Are What You Love, pp. 58, 125).

Our culture’s liturgy is high drama. It’s full of reality shows of people arguing and backstabbing; dramas in hospitals, courtrooms, and the white house; and violence, everywhere. There is violence in words and actions. This is the liturgy, or rhythm, present on our TVs. But what is God’s liturgy, his ultimate rhythm for our lives?

Smith observes that, “If our loves can be disordered by secular liturgies, it’s also true that our loves need to be reordered (recalibrated) by counterliturgies—embodied, communal practices that are ‘loaded’ with the gospel and indexed to God and his kingdom” (You Are What You Love, pp. 57–58). How can we “index” our lives to God’s kingdom, to his ways? How can we “load” our lives with the gospel? What does it look for our ministries to be “reordered (recalibrated) by counterliturgies”?

2. Devote Yourself to “Doing What is Good" 

A primary point of our “counterliturgy,” the rhythm we live, is “good works” (or “doing what is good.”) The emphasis of the Greek text of Titus 3:8–11 is on “good works.” The discourse of the Greek text literally frames around this point. What’s “excellent and profitable for people”? To practice “good works,” “to devote themselves to good works.” How do those “who have believed [or trusted] in God” live? They practice “good works.”

The Christian is constantly searching in his or her life for the opportunity to do “good” for other people. As Paul shows us in Titus 2:11–14, the response of the Christian to Jesus is to do good in his name: the redemption God offers in Christ changes the way we live. What is “good”? That which benefits other people.

For example, in his letter to Timothy, Paul describes an impoverished widow who has done good works as having the following type of characteristics. She is a woman who:

“is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” (1 Timothy 5:10 NIV). 

In 1 Timothy 6:17–19, Paul says a rich person who has done good works will display a certain kind of character. Paul tells Timothy:

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19 NIV).

This is how we devote ourselves to “doing what is good”: In our wealth or in our poverty, we love people self-sacrificially, utilizing whatever resources are available to us. But we also need to go one step further to be relationally healthy.

3. Avoid Foolish Controversies and Prejudices

Paul has already told us how to act toward other people—the actions we should take daily. In Titus 3:9, he explains what we should avoid. Picking up on a thread from Titus 1:10–16, Paul says,

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9 NIV).

Paul picks up on a liturgy of the culture of Crete that is also common today: controversies that do not have a point. Consider all the times that you have heard people argue over something that they can do nothing about. (This is the case for most political arguments.) As Christians, we need to step out of controversies when we can do nothing about them.

Paul then mentions “genealogies,” which were commonly used in Graeco-Roman society to include or exclude people. In the Christian community, there is no place for parentage being a deciding factor (or any factor at all) in defining our lives. We are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28–29). Whenever tribe or family threatens to disrupt God’s community, we must stand against it (compare Mark 3:35). Unity must be the desire. 

From here, Paul addresses a quarrel that seems to have been happening over how to interpret the law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). It seems that there were some Jewish Christians on Crete who were trying to take a place of authority over Christians who were not of Jewish heritage (Titus 1:10–11). Paul opposes legalistic prejudice, especially when such legalism is evoked for “shameful gain” (Titus 1:11).

Whenever we as Christians find ourselves embattled in a debate, we must ask, “Will this further Jesus’ ways? Is there good to be had here, for the betterment of God’s community and mission?” If not, we should step back and change our behavior. Avoid foolish controversies and prejudices.

4. Relationally Healthy Ministry Prioritizes Unity

Rather than, “I’m right,” emotionally healthy ministry prioritizes unity. This is the point of Paul’s closing teaching in Titus:

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned” (Titus 3:9–10 NIV).

If a person is seeking to be divisive, even after warning, then they are not really seeking God’s ways. In the process, they have condemned themselves by their actions. Paul here is asking the Christian community to be self-disciplined. He is saying, “If all else fails, prioritize the unity of the church.” It’s okay to say someone, “If you can’t learn to love people first, and if you insist on leading people astray with you into these foolish controversies, incorrect teachings, and prejudices, then I don’t think we have a place for you here.”

This is how seriously Paul takes the issue of unity. It is a priority, and thus there are boundaries.

What does relationally healthy ministry look like, according to Paul? It (1) Creates a counter-liturgy, a new rhythm of living; (2) involves people devoting themselves to what is good, the betterment of other people; (3) means people avoiding foolish controversies and prejudices; and (4) prioritizes unity, which means having boundaries with people.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

It is one thing to say you’re a Christian; it’s another thing to really act like it, in all aspects of life. What does the Christian life look like? How does the Christian react to his or her culture? What does the Christian do when the whole world seems to be a political minefield, and when culture seems to be against the Christian’s values? How do we align our thoughts and actions with God’s ways?

Throughout the book of Titus, Paul the apostle examines how to authentically live as a Christian—in all aspects of life. In Titus 3:1–7, we find that the key is resistance. We must resist the politically charged quarrels of our age. We must let our thoughts and actions be transformed by God.

How to Address the Political Difficulties of Our Age

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1–2 NIV).

Paul’s words beg the question, how often have you sacrificed the gospel to make a point? How often is it that our political rhetoric becomes a hindrance of the gospel? Consider all the times that Christianity has been co-opted by a political party, leader, or view. Consider all the harm that has been done in the name of religion, in the name of “being right.”

How often have nations and people been torn apart by those two words, “I’m right”? It is a repeat, a cycle, of the same argument time and again.

Paul tells us to resist. The gospel is resistance. And so much more.

"Be Ready to Do Whatever is Good"

Let’s also be clear about what Paul is not saying: Paul is not saying, “never be political.” The gospel itself was political; after all, Paul was tried by Roman law because of his belief in Jesus. Jesus was killed because he threatened the political establishment. What Paul is saying is “choose your battles.” What are you really fighting for? What is it really about? Is this about a core value of Christianity, or have you been co-opted by a political party and ideal? 

The driver for the Christian life is “to be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1). It is in light of this greater good that Paul tells Christians to be obedient to rulers and authorities. It is also in light of this that Paul says, “to slander no one” and to instead “be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2).

The Greek word behind “to slander” in Titus 3:2 is βλασφημέω (blasphēmeō), which refers to speaking against someone for the purpose of causing harm. And isn’t this also what political rhetoric so often unravels into, name calling? Instead of the issue at hand, and what represents the good of individuals and humanity alike, the discussion unravels into slandering someone else. 

Paul says instead that we should seek peace and be considerate, that we should choose the road of gentleness toward everyone.

How to Live in a Politically Charged Age

From Titus 3:1–2, we can derive two points of action then for how to live in a politically charged age:

  1. place the gospel first, and
  2. resist the political evils that are far too common.

The Christian looks at the world and challenges the norms in his or her behavior, saying, “I love Jesus first. What’s best for his cause?” If a political move has to be made for that cause, such as a human rights issue, it will. But even when doing so, the Christian seeks to show other people respect and love, to approach everything with a spirit of gentleness.

Why Christians Live Differently

In Titus 3:1–2, Paul presents his instructions for believers on Crete. Then in Titus 3:3–7, he explains the theology behind his instructions.

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:3–7 NIV).

The driving force behind the Christian life is “the kindness and love of God our Savior” who has appeared. The Christian aims to show the type of love he did: “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

Paul tells us that the Christian’s life is so radically altered that it is like a “washing of rebirth,” a “renewal by the Holy Spirit.” There is an inner cleansing of the Christian’s life via the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:26). It is the Holy Spirit that completely changes the life of the Christian, affecting how they think and feel, as they learn to love God with their whole being (Mark 12:29–31). We learn to live differently by thinking differently.

2 Ways to Transform Your Thoughts

Behind our actions are always our thoughts. It is our thought life that leads us to act like the people around us, rather than as Jesus calls us to live. The theology of Titus 3 suggests that when the Christian looks at the issues of our age, he or she will do so from two points of thought:

  1. I live with a spirit of kindness and love, because Jesus has shown that kindness and love to me. I lead with grace, because grace has been shown to me.
  2. I am being changed completely by God, which will affect my entire thought life and emotions. I lead with an openness to the Holy Spirit changing me.

This is a great hope that we live into. Paul says, that God has “poured out on us [the Holy Spirit], generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:6–7).

Are You Being Changed by the Holy Spirit?

The type of changed life Paul saw is also what Jesus envisioned when he said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). When Nicodemus asked him what this meant, Jesus replied: “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:7–8).

It is this I stand in awe of, how the Holy Spirit can change me. How God declared me “justified by [Jesus’] grace,” through his sacrificial death. But in the resurrected life of Jesus, I can live, as one resurrected with him by the work of the Holy Spirit.

This gospel should change everything about how I think and how I act. The Spirit breathing on me, changing me, should alter my very life. It moves me from a mode of “I’m right” to a mode of love and grace. It moves me toward a spirit of kindness and love, as I am changed completely by God.

As Christians, we place the gospel first and resist the political evils that are far too common. We declare that the Holy Spirit has given us new life and hope—and we live into that.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

One of the core ideas of the Christian gospel is that it affects everything. When God looks at the world, he does not see the divisions we put in place between our church lives, work lives, social lives, and family lives. God is asking us the question, always: Will you be faithful to me in this—this time, this place, this moment?

In Titus 2:11–15, Paul the apostle offers his young apprentice Titus specific instructions about how to represent Jesus in everything he does. These instructions were meant to inform Titus of both how he should live and what he should teach. These instructions help us answer a major question: What makes a Christian, a "Christian"? 

The Grace of God Has Appeared

In Titus 2:1–9, Paul offers specific instructions for each segment of the Graeco-Roman household in the first-century AD. But in Titus 2:11–14, he offers an overarching theology of serving Jesus anywhere, at any time. In Titus 2:11–14, he says:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–13 NIV).

The grace of God has appeared. Jesus has come. And he offers salvation to all who believe (Titus 2:11; compare Romans 1:16; John 3:16–18). But how do we live this message of salvation? That’s the question each Christian should be asking. And Paul has answers.

What It Means to Live a Godly Life

Paul tells us that salvation in Christ “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness” (Titus 2:12). The Greek phrase the NIV translates here as “say ‘No’ to ungodliness” (ἀρνησάμενοι τὴν ἀσέβειαν, arnēsamenoi tēn asebeian) could also be rendered as “reject ungodliness” or “renounce impiety.” The core idea is that the Christian, when faced with the evils present in the world, will always stand against them. The Christian will show reverence to God. “Say ‘No’ to ungodliness,” Paul says; and he continues, saying, “live … godly lives in this present age.”

Paul is contrasting here: there are those who live “godly” lives (εὐσεβῶς, eusebōs) and there are those who live “ungodly” lives (ἀσέβεια, asebeia). These two words share a root in common, σεβω (sebō), to “show reverence.” There are those who don’t show God reverence and those who do.

Thus, how we live the gospel is contextual to where and when we live, as Paul has shown earlier in his specific instructions (Titus 2:1–9), but there are certain core values that are uncompomisables. Showing reverence to God is one of those uncompromisable values.

Paul clarifies further by using the phrase “worldly passions.” The Greek phrase translated here, τὰς κοσμικὰς ἐπιθυμίας (tas kosmikas epithumias), could be rendered as “worldly desires.” In other contexts, this type of desire is often coupled with seeking that which is not yours or that which is against God’s will. Think of seeking another person’s spouse, greedily seeking gain, or lustfulness (1 Timothy 6:9; Galatians 5:16, 24; compare 1 John 2:16–17). These are the kinds of things Paul has in mind for us to avoid. 

Paul, then, first tells us what Christians do not do: Christians do not live according to the standards of their societies. When greed, lust, or selfishness are promoted; the Christian will stand in opposition. The Christian’s very personhood will represent the opposite values. 

Paul then tells us what Christians do: they “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:12). The second word here, “upright,” δικαίως (diakaiōs), could also be rendered as “fair” or “just.”

3 Things All Christians Should Do

When all of the above is put together, it seems that Paul is looking for Christians to do three things:

  1. Show “self-control” in their daily actions.
  2. Seek what is “just” and “fair.”
  3. Show reverence to God and his ways.

The Christian lifestyle is marked then by: (1) personal discipline, (2) a desire that God’s justice reign in the world, and (3) a love of God and his ways. This is another way of phrasing the same three points.

Paul explains that this is how we navigate our current, present age. This is how we represent Jesus in everything we do. As we await “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,” these actions represent the Christian life.

Thus, in this section of Titus, Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is God. And we show our love to this God, who has come to earth, by how we live. And the very idea of God coming again, in flesh, to earth should prompt us to live as an authentic Christian in the here and now (Titus 2:13).

What Then Makes a Christian?

Jesus makes a Christian, a "Christian." It is the free gift of salvation. But there are implications to this great "grace of God." It changes how we live. In Titus 2:14–15, Paul says:

“Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you” (Titus 2:13b–15 NIV). 

Because of Jesus' saving act for us, we are to live as people who are disciplined, seek justice, and who reverently seek God (Titus 2:11–13). This is what it means to be Christian in the here and now. When faced with the great difficulties of our world, this is how we respond. When faced with the problems in our culture, this is how we respond. When faced with what it means to be a Christian, this is our answer. We should be “eager to do what is good.”

3 Markers of the Christian Life

Here's another way to look at this same idea, derived from Paul's letter to Titus. There are three markers of the Christian life:

  1. The Christian doesn’t just reject ungodliness in speech; he or she first and foremost lives “godliness” (Titus 2:12). The Christian realizes that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify [us], a people, [as] his very own” (Titus 2:14). The Christian lives a “self-controlled” life (Titus 2:12).
  2. The Christian doesn’t just say what is unjust or unfair; he or she acts to create justice (Titus 2:12). The Christian is “eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
  3. The Christian doesn’t just speak of reverence to God, but actually lives in reverence to God, “encouraging” others to do the same (Titus 2:15). The Christian acknowledges that since Christ has “released” us or “set us free”—“redeemed” us—that we should live into that freedom.

Let us then be a people who are willing to “encourage and rebuke [one another] with all authority.” Let us not be people “despise” or “look down” on this sort of direction, but instead people who embrace it. We can sharpen one another as Christians. We examine our own lives and invite others to examine our lives. We can live as people who, “in the present age” act as God’s “people” who are set apart as “his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Discipline. Justice. Reverence. These three should mark God’s people, in everything they do.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

God didn’t come in flesh for one part of your life, but for your entire life.

Among Christians in America, there is a regular separation between what happens in church and the rest of life. Work is one thing; church is another. School is one thing; church is another. Our home life is one thing; church is another. The walls of a church building function like a boundary between our Christianity and the outside world. There is a divide between the sacred and secular. But that’s not the way things should be.

God wants to reclaim our entire lives, for this is how he is reclaiming the world. This is profoundly seen in the book of Titus and especially Titus 2:6–10, which offers us instructions on how to advocate for Jesus—in all areas of life.

But First, a Recap of Our Titus Series

Paul opens his letter to Titus by first explaining his personal calling and ministry (Titus 1:1–4). From Titus 1:1–4, we can see what it means to have a Christian identity: our lives will be defined first and foremost by the “hope of eternal life” of Jesus, the savior. But how do we recognize a Christian leader, a person who has been truly transformed by this idea?

Paul tells us in Titus 1:5–9 that Christian leaders have three primary qualifications. Christian leaders are: (1) capable and respected, (2) loving, and (3) experienced at following Jesus. We also see the opposite of this: trend seekers who propagate ideas of legalism (Titus 1:10–16). While these kinds of people are often elevated in our culture, they don’t represent the Christian ideal. “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). Paul’s instructions are for the purpose of guiding Titus on how to appoint Christian leaders for the churches on Crete, where Paul and Timothy had formally done missionary work together.

In Titus 2, Paul shifts to a series of pragmatic instructions, covering the different demographics represented in the churches: older men (Titus 2:1–2), older women (Titus 2:3–4), and then younger women (Titus 2:4–5). These instructions are highly contextual, geared at the specific situation on Crete (a point illustrated by Paul’s use of a proverb about Cretans in Titus 1:12). What this means is that we should not attempt to verbatim apply these instructions to our modern context. Instead, we should look to the theological principles behind the instructions.

Let's Move Away from Cheap-Grace Christianity

With this recap in mind, let’s examine Titus 2:6–8, where Paul turns to instructions for young men:

"Similarly [to what I’ve told you for these other groups of people], encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:6–8 NIV).

Here, we first see an emphasis again on self-control. Paul is big on a Christian life of discipline. He is opposed to legalism (Titus 2:14), but that doesn’t mean that he is about an “I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone do what they want, okay?” sort of faith. Instead, he acknowledges that we have to live our faith in how we act.

The basic premise here is that holiness is important to God and that a person who refuses to have self-control will never garner anyone’s respect. If no one respects you, how will they respect Jesus? With this in mind, I’m tempted to ask: What has happened to Christianity in America then, that we so easily accept a sort of cheap grace, without calling people to authentically live for Jesus?

3 Ways to Be a Model for Jesus

We know Paul is against a cheap grace version of Christianity, where we merely use Jesus as a scapegoat without a response to the grace he has offered. But what is Paul for? How does he tell us to advocate for Jesus? How should we show our Christianity to other people? How do we share our faith? Put simply, be a model, “set … an example” (Titus 2:7).

In Titus 2:7–8, Paul tells us that there are three ways we can be a model for Jesus:

  1. In our good works — what we do for other people. For a definition of this, we can look to 1 Timothy 6:18 that defines good works as being “generous and ready to share.”
  2. In our teaching — speaking about Jesus with what Paul calls “integrity and dignity.” This means also living the message. There should be consistency in what we say and what we do.
  3. With sound speech — this means accurate teaching, to the gospel. For a definition of what “sound teaching” is we can look to 1 Timothy 6:3, where this type of teaching is defined as that which agrees with the “instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

These three methods are how we advocate for Jesus, in all spheres of life.

Be a Model for Jesus, Even When Oppressed

After offering the above instructions, Paul then turns to another segment of patriarchal, Graeco-Roman society, slaves:

"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:9–10 NIV).

When Paul offers these instructions, he is not condoning slavery. Let’s remember that he diplomatically argues for the freedom of a slave in his letter to Philemon. Paul also advocates regularly for all people, “slave and free” (Galatians 3:28). There is also the contextual consideration: that in Graeco-Roman society working off a debt was a credit system. They used the word slavery for this context.

Paul offers these instructions because he wants people to advocate for Christ, no matter their context. He is also saying that one person’s injustice does not justify doing an injustice against them. Slaves, Paul says, even in their painful and difficult context can “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).

Consider How You Can Be a Model for Jesus

My question to those of us that are free is: If that’s the case, that even those in slavery can glorify God in their actions, what then is holding us back? Our brothers and sisters who have incredible injustices done against them may very well be showing Jesus more than us. In our freedom, are we abusing the freedom Christ has gained for us?

“In everything set … an example by doing what is good. … In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech” (Titus 2:7–8). Bring unity to your beliefs in the church building and outside of it. Advocate for Jesus in all that you do, whatever that may be.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

We’re given a story in our culture: We’re told what it means to live, what we should value. And then there’s the biblical story, which is in in sharp contrast to the story of culture. This makes authentic Christianity difficult to come by. Every Christian faces the challenge of discerning how to authentically live for Jesus. What is it that makes an authentic Christian? And how can we live as authentic Christians? How can our lives tell a different story, a better story? For the answers to these questions, we can look to Titus 2:1–5, which records some instructions Paul the apostle gave his young apprentice, Titus.

The Backstory of Titus on Crete

Paul had left his young apprentice Titus on Crete, to appoint leaders for the fledgling church(es) there and to inspire them to live authentically for Jesus. Crete is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, located southwest of modern Turkey. Paul wrote this letter at some point in the mid-60s AD, between his first and second Roman imprisonments.

In Titus 1:5–9, Paul has explained to Titus how to identify authentic Christian leaders, noting that they must be:

  1. Capable and respected;
  2. Loving, in all sphere of life (at home and publicly); and
  3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus).
From here, Paul told Titus how to discern the difference between a truly Christian leader and a trend seeker, by explaining what inauthenticity looks like (Titus 1:10–16).

    In Titus 2:1–15, Paul now tells Titus how to minister to specific people groups on Crete, explaining what each of them will need to hear. From these very specific instructions, rooted in the cultural issues on Crete, we can derive some principles for how to authentically live as Christians and then apply these principles to our present circumstances, to our lives.

    How to Find Sound Doctrine

    In Titus 2:1–5 (NIV), Paul says to Titus: 

    You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

    Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

    Paul first reminds Titus of the value of sound doctrine, which can be defined as that which is consistent with the gospel message—of Jesus’ saving act on the cross and his resurrection—and with the teachings of the apostles (Titus 2:1; compare 1 Timothy 1:10). Paul gives to Titus here a principle that is applicable to all situations: If you want to know how to live, look to the Bible as your guide.

    From here, Paul turns to what he believed older men on Crete needed to hear (Titus 2:2). In the first-century AD, “older men” would have referred to those over age 50. From this advice about "older men," we can learn how to live sound doctrine.

    4 Disciplines for Christians to Live By

    From Paul's instructions about teaching "older men," we see four practices or disciplines emerge:

    1. Temperance, that is the ability to be restrained or not give into extremes. (This seems to imply even consumption habits, such as alcohol [compare Titus 2:3].)
    2. Respectable, or worthy of respect.
    3. Self-controlled. This aligns with Paul’s instruction that younger women live pure lives (Titus 2:4).
    4. Sound in faith, knowing and practicing the values of Jesus. This is shown in how we love and what we endure.

    The recommendation of Paul for older women is similar to that for older men (Titus 2:3). Likewise, Paul reflects the value of garnering respect in the teachings he offers for younger women (Titus 2:4–5), which in his context would have been women between the ages of 20 and 30, but this also seems to be a general reference to women younger than the older women group (over age 50). In Paul’s first-century context, the values he gives for young women would have all been cultural norms; Paul’s concern seems to be that violating a cultural norm so central to Graeco-Roman culture would have brought unwanted scrutiny to the fledgling church.

    What the 4 Disciplines for Christian Life Teach

    What these four values or disciplines show us is that at its core, Christianity is not just about belief, about a commitment to a set of religious standards; it is also about practice. It’s about what we do with our time, resources, and energy. Christianity is not just about what’s coming, going to heaven, but about the now—what we will do with the fact that heaven has come to earth in the personhood of Jesus, the one who suffered, died, and rose on our behalf. What will we do with sound doctrine? That’s the question of Paul for us.

    What Will You Do with Sound Doctrine?

    Jesus came to reclaim our entire lives. About this, Paul elsewhere says: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1–2 NIV).

    This reminds me of a line from the band All Sons and Daughters song “Dawn to Dusk”:

    Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender

    We come before you [and] lay our burdens down

    We look to you as our hearts remember

    You are the only God

    You are our only God.

    So let us surrender, lay our burdens down, and embrace the open arms of the God of the universe. Let us authentically live our beliefs.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    How are we to distinguish authentic Christian leadership from those who are trend seekers? How are we to know what’s proper engagement with culture and what is simply emulating culture? How are we to discern these matters as Christians?

    There's a Problem in the Church

    There are many people who pretend (or feign) that that they are Christian leaders. Think of the type of people who pretend like they are seeking the betterment of a church while they are really interested in building their own platform. These type of people are sure to be in all the right places at all the right times and are always quick to offer their piece of input or advice. But we all know what many of these people are really about: They are seeking some sense of belonging or power and because they lack maturity, they ultimately cause harm to other people.

    This problem isn't new. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he offers some brilliant advice for distinguishing between authentic Christian leaders and trend seekers. He directly connects this advice to how Titus should distinguish people who are ready to be Christian leaders from those who are not (see Titus 1:5–9).

    “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:10–16 NIV).

    False leadership (or power seeking) can come in many forms but Paul tells us to be on the lookout for three particular kinds.

    1. Look Out for Legalism

    Historically, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul first refers to those who want all Christians to act like Jewish people (the circumcision group; see the letter of Galatians for a detailed account of this). In today’s context, we would call these the legalistic people—those who want to distinguish what is Christian and what is not purely on the basis of outward signs or actions. Paul tells Titus to silence this group and substitute in truth.

    2. Look Out for Laziness

    After discussing legalism in Titus 1:10–16, Paul then looks to those who are lazy, which may include some people in the first group. Here he cites a common proverb of some sort. Paul is not being racist here, but instead is joking in jest. But there is a truth here we need to remember: trend seekers are rarely willing to work hard for the betterment of a community. Be suspicious of people who are quick to take advantage of resources but not so quick to work to grow the church (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6–10).

    3. Look Out for Mythology

    Finally, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul looks to Jewish mythology—or perhaps re-references the impositions being imposed upon non-Jewish Christians by Jewish people. He critiques this too. In today's world, we can think of those who become obsessed with a particular worldview or brand of theology to the point that it becomes the only measure for truth in their mind.

    Define Your Life around the Gospel

    In this, Paul shows us how easy it is to be led astray and to misunderstand God and his ways. When this happens, everything in our lives becomes corrupted. Wrong beliefs, then lead to wrong actions. We cannot claim to know God and not live completely what he is calling us to do.

    We must define our entire lives around the saving work of the gospel. This is what is good and "pure." We must show other people that we need God and God alone and declare that only he can truly save.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    If we want to understand what God desires in a leader (or any Christian for that matter), we need look no further than the book of Titus.

    Near the beginning of Titus, Paul says why he had previously left Titus in Crete. While the book of Acts doesn’t fill is in on the details of when Paul planted a church in Crete, and when he left Titus there, we know from the letter to Titus that Paul saw this venture on the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean as critical. While explaining why he left Titus on the island, Paul gives us a glimpse into his view of Christian leadership, saying:

    “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5–9 NIV; compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7).

    The 5 Attributes of a Christian Leader

    In Titus 1:5–9, Paul tells Titus that anyone who assumes a church office should have five attributes:

    1. be a respectable person
    2. who knows how to teach others in the ways of Jesus,
    3. who knows how to love their family and others well,
    4. who doesn’t do things that are clearly against Jesus’ teachings,
    5. and is not a recent convert to Christianity (i.e., been a Christian for awhile).

    It also makes sense for people who have the role of overseer to have the ability to do what Paul calls "discern spirits"—to protect the church from heretical teachings is a critical function of church leaders (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; Titus 1:10–16). This could also be defined as an orthodoxy filter and concern for the church staying on track.

    3 Descriptors of Christian Leaders

    If I were to narrow the above list to three overarching attributes or principles, these three could cover all of the above: 

    1. Capable and respected teacher (with discernment)
    2. Loving, in all spheres of life (at home and publicly)
    3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus)

    Now what I’m not saying here is that these are requirements for God to call a leader. All leaders depend on the grace of God; and God clearly calls the unexpected (e.g., Paul himself; Moses; David). I'm also not saying that a person who falls outside of these requirements is immediately disqualified—again grace and a repentant heart is central. Instead, these are requirements for someone to actually take a leadership position. These are the general rule we look to.

    Live the Christian Principles of Leadership

    Shouldn’t we all strive to these principles? Imagine what could occur in our world if we lived as people who were capable and respected, loving in all we do, and who experienced Jesus daily.

    If we lived Christian principles of leadership, people would certainly wonder, “What is it that makes this person who they are?” They would ask you about the faith you cling to. You would make a true and lasting difference in our world, living as a true missionary for Jesus in everything you do.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    In our culture, when you first meet someone, the first thing you do is introduce yourself with your name. The second thing is to ask the person across from you, “So what do you do?” And by that, we almost always mean, “What’s your occupation, your job?”

    Our culture defines self by a title: what your boss says you can call yourself or if you’re the boss, what you call yourself. In this regard, I recently enjoyed meeting a pastor who called himself, “chief janitor.” He was noting the importance of this primary occupation that keeps everything else running. He was also emphasizing his desire to serve.

    Our culture also searches for other ways to define ourselves: Once we retire, the definition usually comes in grandchildren or in “what I once did, before retirement.” This often leaves me wondering, “Why don’t we redefine ourselves in these years in a different way, seeing them as the time when we can finally be freed up to do whatever it is God is asking us to do?” Why can’t our golden years become golden years of ministry?

    Rethinking How We Define Ourselves

    In the book of Titus, we see Paul’s self-definition—how he viewed vocation (or calling), what he put on his resume or business card. This is not what you would expect. We also see a better vision for ministry, one that doesn’t go it alone but finds unity with likeminded people working together for the furthering of God’s mission in the world.

    At some point in the mid-60s AD, between Paul’s first and second imprisonments in Rome, he wrote to Titus on the island of Crete. It appears that Paul is either on his way (or already in) Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Paul opens the letter with these words:

    “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:1–4 NIV, emphasis mine).

    First Paul tells us that he is here to serve God; and then he tells us that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ—he is sent by Jesus on mission to the world (see Acts 9). Paul then gives us a purpose statement for his life: to further the faith of God’s people and to enhance their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

    Paul here is not interested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge; he wants people to grow as Christians so that they may be transformed by the gospel, the same gospel that had transformed his life.

    This gospel, Paul tells us, is about eternal life and based in a promise of God since the very beginning of time (John 3:16). That is, God in his providence, understood that if Adam and Eve were to sin—to go against his will—that a new plan would have to be put in place. Furthermore, Paul is emphasizing that the personhood of Jesus has always been present: It is through him and by him that the world was made (John 1:1–4; Hebrews 1:1–2). This is the message of Jesus, that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10).

    How Do You Define Yourself?

    Paul sees his entire vocation as wrapped up in this message—in the gospel, in Jesus. This is why he preaches. This is what he lives for. This is how he defines himself. And this is why he has enlisted the help of, and partnered with, Titus.

    Shouldn’t we see our vocations and callings in a similar manner? Shouldn’t we define life by what Jesus is doing among us, through us, in us? Drop me a comment to let me know what you think. Have you tried changing how you define yourself and what were the results?

    This article is part of our series "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.