But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say, us.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Jesus said to them, "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
In his advice to Titus, Paul respects the limits of the church's local culture, yet also sets our human life within a divine framework. He begins with an appeal that our speech be "consistent with sound doctrine" and explains that the core of this sound doctrine is about the "glory of the great God and of our Saviour Christ Jesus." What we do on earth will determine how we shall relate to Jesus in his glorious second coming.
In between, Paul is quite pragmatic. Both his words here and today's gospel accept social and cultural structures which are not acceptable today. Jesus refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. For work well done the master would not necessarily show any gratitude, because the slave was only carrying out his orders. Jesus is not endorsing slavery, though he was preparing the way for its abolition by emphasizing the dignity of every individual. At the end, if we trust, we will not only understand truth, as Wisdom promises us, but we will also be absorbed within a joy and glory far surpassing our human merits. Everything will seem useless by comparison.
In the culture of Jesus' time servants who did their duty did not expect to be thanked for doing what was expected of them. Their faithfulness to their task did not put their master under any obligation to them. Jesus seems to be saying that something similar can be said about our relationship with God. We are called to serve God by our lives. We serve God by our worship, our efforts to walk in the way, his Son, to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
We try to be faithful to this calling as best we can, day in and day out. Our efforts to be faithful do not place God under any obligation to us. At the end of the day, we have no claim on God, even after we have done all God asks of us. In a sense, we always come before God with empty hands, in our poverty. No matter how well we have served God, we are always beggars in God's presence. Yet, it is that awareness of our own emptiness and poverty that opens us up to receive from God's fullness. It is in becoming like little children that we enter the kingdom of God. In the words of Mary's great prayer, the Magnificat, God fells the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away.