What qualifies someone as an older woman who teaches younger women? In other words, who are to be the teachers and who are to be the learners? The answer is important. If we get this mixed up, we will quickly get off course.
Chronological, or even spiritual age—the number of years she has been a Christian—does not necessarily make someone an “older” woman according to Scripture. In the context of Titus 2:3-5 (see also 1 Tim. 5:3-14, Heb. 13:7, Phil. 3:17 ), we can see that an older woman has proven character and a fruitful lifestyle.
These two litmus tests of the godly older woman highlight the inner character and the outward result of that character. They help us to discern if we are qualified to teach and who is qualified to teach us.
Proven character – Proof of genuine character requires time and tests. A woman must be a faithful Christian for some length of time and pass tests of faith that result in greater maturity and steadfastness (James 1:3-4). In the words of Titus 2, she is reverent and godly, and has self-control over her tongue and her body. She is not yet perfect, but she is proven.
This means an “older” woman may be quite young. A girl not yet twenty who has walked through the teenage years with purity, righteousness, and love for family and church may be an older woman to younger girls. Or a young pastor’s wife may be a godly example to older members of her husband’s congregation. An older woman need not have passed every test, only passed her tests well.
Fruitful lifestyle – To identify the godly older woman, look at those around her, starting with her family. Here is where the Bible starts (Titus 2:3-5, 1 Tim. 5:3-14). Is the woman faithful to her husband and children, to her parents and her home? Does she leave behind a lovely trail of sacrificial service in the church?
The godly older woman may have a wayward child or a difficult husband or spent hours counseling a woman who wanders from the faith. But she will also have abundant fruit in her marriage and parenting, and in the lives of the women she has counseled and served.
Last year, a prominent Christian magazine published an article entitled: “50 Women to Watch,” and it occurred to me that the fifty women to watch are probably the ones that nobody is watching (except maybe a small child or an elderly dependent or a grieving woman). The women to watch are probably serving in secret, which is why you often see the fruit of a godly woman’s life before you ever see her.
So we must be discerning. Just because a woman in our church has a compelling personality or a desire to teach other women, or just because a woman is a clever writer of books and blogs, we must not automatically assume she is a woman to follow. Take a closer look at her life. Consider the fruit.
Follow a woman you want to be like. Follow a fruitful woman.
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