The book of Titus is a letter written from Paul to Titus. In the greeting, Paul refers to Titus as “my loyal child in the faith we share.” We learn about Titus in Galatians and Second Corinthians. From these books we know that Titus was a Gentile convert who became a co-missionary with Paul. In the book of Galatians, Paul brought Titus to Jerusalem to prove to the leaders that a Gentile could become a devoted Christian. Titus also played a key role in ministering to the church in Corinth, acting as a representative of Paul, and even providing reconciliation for Paul and the Corinthians after Paul had a “painful visit” there.
The book of Titus was likely written in the second half of the first century. It was written as instruction for Titus while he was in Crete, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of mainland Greece. He was given two main tasks: to preach sound teaching to the faithful and to challenge those who opposed it. In the message of the letter, we see three major themes: church structure and order, false teaching, and community relations and belief. The passage we are focusing on is found at the end of the book, the final bit of instruction and advice.
“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
Sometimes when I want to set aside time to reflect on scripture, I like to read through the passage a couple of times and jot down the words that stood out to me. I invite you to join in this practice with me. Make sure you have a pen and paper handy, and prepare to spend a bit of time with this verse. Slowly read through the passage, and write down the words or phrases that seem to jump out at you. You may want to write out the verse and then circle or underline certain words. Now sit with these words for a few moments. Invite God to speak to you through this verse and these words. Why do you think those particular phrases caught your attention? How does each word make you feel? What do you think these words meant to Titus? What do they mean to you?
One great thing I have found about this practice is that I can do this multiple times with the same verse and different words stand out each time. For now, I am going to focus on “learn,” “devote,” and “unproductive.”
The word “learn” is important to me, because it shows that we are all on a journey, and our Christian walk is a process. The believers in Crete were not expected to be experts on Paul and Titus’ teaching overnight, and neither are we. We are in a continual process of learning and growth.
Similarly, the word “devote” shows us this instruction is not just a passing order. Devotion signifies importance. When you are devoted to something, you spend your time and energy on it. Here, we are told to spend our time and energy on good works.
The last word that jumped out at me today is “unproductive;” some translations use “unfruitful.” This word makes me feel a bit anxious. I would never want to be unproductive. I certainly do not mean to downplay rest and rejuvenation—these are important for a balanced life—but, as a whole, I want my life and ministry to be productive and fruitful.
When I reflect on the three words together, and the full verse, I am comforted.
“Unproductive” ushers me back toward learning and commitment. I will continue to grow in my walk and faith. In this process my devotion will be strengthened, and as I commit myself to good works and meeting the needs of others, I will be fruitful. “Learn” and “devote” bring me peace in knowing that I can extend grace to myself, as God extends grace to us. We are all on a journey, and when we commit to live in the teachings of Jesus, we do not have to live in the fear of being unfruitful.
Haley Seanor serves as a hospital chaplain in Birmingham, Alabama. She feels blessed and humbled for the opportunity to walk alongside others in this role. Haley was a contributor for the book Reading the Bible Outdoors: The Practice of Lectio Sub Divo, A Devotional Guide.