Paul closes this letter to Titus by telling him of the two others coming to Crete. (We started this study here, back in January). Paul has chosen to send two trusted, godly men to keep working in the church while Titus is able to come away for the winter. Paul entreats him to join him for the winter. Perhaps Paul is keenly aware of an elder’s need for sabbatical? Perhaps Paul wants them both to be refreshed by fellowship found in the presence of other steadfast believers? Or maybe he would like to hear how the church at Crete is coming along? No need to speculate, but these all could be part of Paul’s request. Similar to the request written to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:9-7).
Verse thirteen, Paul instructs Titus regarding the need to fund others who are serving, and to see that they have no lack as they go on their way. Titus would need to lead the church at Crete in this effort. Verse fourteen mentions once again, good deeds, as well as meeting pressing needs. Before we look intensely at this verse, it is good to pause and realize that Paul is not teaching the need to meet pressing needs in lieu of a tithe. The church needs to learn this, but that does not mean they are to unlearn tithing and giving.
My money, MINE.
Many of late who claim to love Christ and His Church have fought the idea of tithing. There is not room enough in this post to address this topic. But this command (for so it is), that we learn to meet pressing needs–serving those around us with our time, effort, money, and all in love (or it is useless, meaningless, purposeless, and anathema) goes alongside the command to be good stewards of our resources.
As stewards we recognize that all we have is God’s, it comes from Him and we ought to use it through His Spirit’s leading, and for His glory. As we steward in worship and with grateful hearts, we tithe, we take care of our needs, take care of our family, and we learn to meet pressing needs. We leave margin in our budgets, we delight to give our lowly copper coins (read Luke 20:45-21:4) when that is all we have; we delight to give our dollars too.
(Side note: it took many years of hard work to dig out of the debt the American Dream led me into, I get it first hand. I thought I had to use credit cards in order to live. But then all my income went to paying interest. So I thought I had an excuse to get out of tithing. There was turmoil in my heart as I read His Word, but I justified the idea that God wanted me to use all my money for my own needs that seemed so insurmountable, and perhaps meet pressing needs if at all possible. I was like that impoverished widow, except I used my two copper coins (taking girls I was mentoring out for coffee) thinking God did not require anything of my budgeting. Oh how gently and patiently He has taught me. Beloved, He cares; He does not want you be enslaved to any sort of lender. I am glad for the help I received, the feeling of peace that came from paying off such enormous debt, and the joy of using income for more than my own survival).
We must learn, the church must always be learning
Back to topic! We must learn, and elders are commanded to teach that we may learn to meet pressing needs. We need wisdom to know when–so that we will not simply enable those who do not want to work, or who keep mishandling their own resources. We must learn to trust Him, that we would willingly part with the money that is not truly ours anyway.
We must learn how to build in the margins. We must learn how to see pressing needs rather than closing our eyes to them. We must learn the humility of letting our needs be known. We have so much to learn!
All of this leads to us, the whole Body of Christ, the whole local Body of which we take part, to be fruitful. When we fund missionaries, we are part, we partake, we are all fruitful. When we meet pressing needs, we fight the sins and false teachings that once held us back, we become more and more fruitful. We are a fruitful people, fruitful together. Sharing, as the church did from the time Jesus ascended into heaven (see Acts 2:38-end).
To learn, it is good to review. What did this letter to Titus already teach us about good deeds:
Titus 1:16 “by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” There are those who promote themselves as good, yet to God their deeds are anything but; in fact He hates their deeds, they are detestable. This is not a call merely to do, but rather a wake up call of “where is your heart? Has He been at work in you? If He has, then you have been cleansed, made pure, given new desires, and are to walk in the deeds He has ordained for you from before the foundation of the world. Apart from Him you can do nothing.”
Titus 2:7, Titus is told to “show yourself to be an example of good deeds.” We need the example of our elders. Only pride would have us believe otherwise. And, beloved, do we follow their example?
Titus 2:14 Jesus came “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” When He abides in you, His zeal will as well. You will be zealous for His Kingdom, for Him to be King, for His love to be known, for His glory. This zeal will be known, it will come out of your heart in your actions. Your deeds.
Titus 3:1 Not only, as above, will our deeds serve His kingdom and gospel spreading, but we will be “obedient [toward civil authorities], to be ready for every good deed.” We will love our neighbor. We will be the good Samaritan.
Titus 3:5 Our deeds to not earn us anything–we are saved by His mercy.
Titus 3:8 Yet our belief, our faith, will work; it will manifest in good deeds, and our elders are right to encourage us in this. “So that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.”
This brings us back to 3:14, Titus–their example–must also teach them how to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs so as to be fruitful. Our faith works out in practical ways. Christianity at its core is love, faith working through love, love that acts engaging in good deeds.
The Spirit Leads you in this!
One of the tendencies we all have to fight in order to accept this message from Scripture is our individualism, our desire to define our own “self” and make all the rules for our own life. He made you–you are not your own (Psalm 100). The Spirit who illumines our minds at first, will lead you putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and walking in the good deeds He has created you for! (Romans 8, Ephesians 2)
Moreover, when you were dead in your sins, He brought you to Life (Ephesians 2, Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 4), and you are now a member of Christ’s Body (Ephesians 2-4) and members of one another (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4:25). We are called to be in one another’s lives, as we are all in union with Christ. We are bought with a price, redeemed, united with Him; our life is now hid in Christ (Colossians).
John Stott, whose book I have truly enjoyed, ends with the question “How productive is your life?” 1 Many would shrink back from such a question–because they do not define “productive” as God does. How would He answer this question for you, if you asked Him? (Hint: without Christ’s love being in every deed, nothing you’ve done is productive).
Hear, in this question, the invitation to sit at His feet and learn–about His love, His work in and through you, His Kingdom, and the works He has for you to walk in. May we be always learning!
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash