Titus: Working for Good DeedsBible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
Paul’s letter to Titus is the final Pastoral Epistle and has many similarities to 1 and 2 Timothy. (For Titus 1:5–9, see 1 Timothy 3:1–13 above. For Titus 2:1–10, see 1 Timothy 5:1–6:2 above.) In this letter, Paul reminds Titus that he had left him in Crete to “put in order what remained to be done” (Titus 1:5). Like Timothy, Titus needed to combat false teaching, install proper leadership, and ensure that the people were devoted to good works (Titus 3:8, 14).
Be Zealous for Good Works (Titus 2:11–3:11)
We have already considered the leadership qualifications described in Titus 1:5–9 and the church family relationships described in Titus 2:1–10 in previous sections of this chapter. Much of the rest of this letter can be summarized by Paul’s vision of God’s people being zealous for good works. This vision certainly applies to Christian workers—they should be devoted to good works at their place of employment. Good works, of course, means work done in such a way as to please God, more than self or anyone else. Good works carry out the purposes of God seen in his creation of the world. They make the world a better place. They help redeem the brokenness of the world and reconcile people to one another and to God. Devotion to this kind of work drives Christian workers more than a passion to do their jobs well for the sake of money or performance reviews. Yet for Christians to have this godly passion for good works, we must understand what makes these good works possible and why we are doing them. The letter to Titus addresses both of these issues.
First, it is critical for Christians to remember that God “saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5). Our conduct in the workplace, at home, or anywhere else does not establish our relationship with God. We cannot “earn” his mercy. Nevertheless, the letter to Titus teaches unambiguously that God’s grace not only forgives our sins but also trains us to “renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” (Titus 2:12). Jesus gave himself so that he might both “redeem us from all iniquity” and “purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). The wonderful section of Titus 3:3–7 describes God’s mercy in conversion and justification as the foundation of the command for believers “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone” (Titus 3:1–2). The grace that God grants in salvation results in a godly (though imperfect) life of obedience and good works. Would reminding ourselves of this reality throughout the day’s activities lead us to become more effective servants of Christ and stewards of creation?
Second, this section in Titus reminds us of the purposes of good works. Good works are intended to meet the needs of others and to make our corner of God’s creation productive (Titus 3:14). This hearkens back to the mandate to till the ground and make it fruitful (Gen. 2:5, 15). Good works serve God and people, but they are not done primarily to earn favor from God and people. The production of good works is not the opposite of faith but the essential consequence of faith. It is the response we give to God after our “rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “Having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7), and as a result we devote ourselves “to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone” (Titus 3:8). Paul is not talking about giving speeches, passing out tracts, or telling people about Jesus. He is talking about good works in the ordinary sense of doing things that others recognize will meet people’s needs. In workplace terms, we could say he means something such as helping new co-workers come up to speed on the job, more so than inviting them to join a Bible study.
Moreover, godly behavior is encouraged “so that the word of God may not be discredited” (Titus 2:5) and so that opponents will have nothing evil to say (Titus 2:8). Positively stated, godly behavior is encouraged for Christians, “so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). Right doctrine leads to good works, and good works make the truth of God attractive to others. That is the aim behind Christian workers’ devotion to good works at their jobs—to live out by their actions the truth they proclaim with their lips. This may prove a powerful witness both to defuse antipathy toward Christians and to appeal to nonbelievers to follow Christ themselves.
Throughout the letter Paul gives practical instructions for doing good works. Most of them can be applied to the workplace. We take our cue on this from the letter itself. Nothing about the instructions to older women, for example (be reverent, don’t slander, don’t become slaves to drink, teach what is good), suggests that only older women should follow them, just as nothing about Timothy’s instructions suggests they can be applied at church. (On the question of whether instructions to slaves can be applied to modern employees, see Colossians 3:18–4:1 in “Colossians & Philemon and Work.”)
Almost any workplace looking for a statement of organizational values and good practices could begin well simply by cutting and pasting from Titus. Paul’s advice includes the following:
- Show respect to everyone (Titus 3:1).
- Be hospitable (Titus 1:8).
- Be kind (Titus 2:5).
- Don’t engage in conflict about inconsequential matters (Titus 3:9).
- Don’t be arrogant, quick tempered, or obstinate (Titus 1:7, 8).
- Don’t use violence as a means of supervision (Titus 1:7). Use gentleness instead (Titus 3:1).
- Be self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 2:6).
- Don’t be greedy for gain (Titus 1:7).
- Don’t become addicted to alcohol (Titus 1:7; 2:3).
- Avoid envy and ill will (Titus 3:3).
- Act with integrity (Titus 1:8).
- Love goodness (Titus 1:8).
- Submit to those in authority over you in the workplace (Titus 2:9). Obey the civil authorities (Titus 3:1).
- Respect others’ property (Titus 2:10) and manage it faithfully on their behalf if you have a fiduciary duty (Titus 2:5).
Authority and Duty
- Exercise the authority you have been given (Titus 2:15).
- Be prudent (Titus 1:8).
- Silence rebellious people, idle talkers, deceivers, slanderers, and those who intentionally cause personal divisions (Titus 1:10; 2:3; 3:10). Rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:13).
- Train others under your leadership in these same virtues (Titus 2:2–10).
We must be careful not to turn such applications into a simplistic dogma. “Be prudent,” therefore, need not mean there is never an appropriate time to take educated risks. “Use gentleness” need not mean never to exercise power. These are applications to modern workplaces from an ancient letter for the church. These items from Titus serve as an excellent source of principles and values well suited to good leadership, both in the church and in the workplace.