Titus, Trucks and Potato Peel Pie (and lots of other stuff) – Part 2

I used to be a big fan of the Canadian TV series, “The Murdoch Mysteries”. Period murder mysteries are one of my favorite types of book or show, and what got us hooked on Murdoch right from the get-go was the way new inventions and historical figures from the 1890s and early 1900s were worked into most of the episodes. And the humor – like Const. Crabtree’s prescient cultural references. (In one episode, Detective Murdoch builds a model of the house in which a murder took place and uses chess pieces to represent the suspects. As he moves them around the model house to help him sort out who the killer might have been, Crabtree says it would be a great idea for a board game.)

What got to be a bit wearing over time, however, was the ways in which Murdoch’s Catholicism was portrayed. Whenever his beliefs or values as a Catholic came into contrast with more “open-minded” attitudes, Murdoch always came off as the prude. That message was often subtle, but it added up over time.

Nobody wants to be seen as a prude. And because it sounds so similar, and old-fashioned, “prudent” probably isn’t considered much of a compliment, either. Actually, until about 30 seconds ago, I thought the two words were related. Turns out, they’re not. According to, “prude” comes from the French term, “prudefemme” (good woman), and means “a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum, especially a woman who shows or affects extreme modesty”. (“Priggish”, for the record, means “self-righteously moralistic or superior”. Thanks to for that one.) “Prudent”, however, comes from the Latin word “prudens” and means “having or showing careful good judgment” and “marked by wisdom and judiciousness” (back to for those).

So, what qualifies a person as a prude isn’t modesty or morality themselves, but an excess or a display of it in order to make yourself look superior to other people. Sadly, even sincere beliefs and integrity are often painted as prudish. And while being prudent is actually a positive thing, it’s never portrayed as cool. It’s the rebels, the edgy, the ones who push the boundaries that are cool. (Just yesterday, a detective in a show my husband and I were watching made some comment about bringing in the forensic accountants. It made me try to picture a movie poster – you know, Avengers- or Justice League-style – but instead of superheros, a team of forensic accountants in action poses with their laptops and calculators. How great would that be? If only I had any idea how to use Photoshop …) And while I sometimes envy those people who are quick-thinking and spontaneous and know how to be cool in the moment, the Bible tells us that true wisdom thinks in the long term (see Prov. 14:15 and 22:3).

What does this have to do with Titus? Well, in my last post, I wrote about how Paul was instructing Titus to help the Christians on Crete recalibrate. In Titus 1:5-16, Paul begins with instructions for what leaders in the church are to be like – a standard against which to calibrate. In chapter 2, he continues with instructions for others in the churches. Throughout, what he describes is prudence.

What are Christian leaders supposed to be like? In both verses 6 & 7, Paul says they’re supposed to be “blameless” - having integrity and not deserving criticism – first in regards to their marriages and families, and then in their actions towards others. Self-control and discipline come up frequently, too, although they’re not supposed to be ascetics. While they weren’t supposed to be drunk, greedy, violent or lazy like Cretans were renowned for being, Paul’s clear in verses 10-16 that they’re not to go to the other extreme of excessive rule-keeping and avoidance of things God actually made for people to enjoy. Christian leaders aren’t to be overbearing or quick-tempered. Instead, they’re supposed to be hospitable, love what’s good, and be grounded in sound doctrine.

The idea of sound doctrine comes up a lot in Titus, and it’s key to the recalibration Paul wants for the Christians on Crete. He contrasts the model for Christian leaders with those to “reject the truth” (v. 14). “Both their minds and consciences are corrupted”, he says. The Greek word for “mind”, nous, refers to our ability to think and reflect. The word for “conscience”, suneidesis, is the God-given capacity to know right from wrong and is part of being created in God’s image. If you reject the truth that’s found in God, who does not lie (v. 2), you’ve rejected the basis for thinking and reflecting accurately about reality and the basis for understanding right and wrong.

What a great picture Paul gives us of what mature followers of Jesus look like. Grounded in truth and balanced. Neither dour and legalistic, nor self-centered and self-indulgent. It’s funny. In popular culture, which is so pleasure driven and abhors having any limits set on our freedom of self-expression, self-discipline is treated as prudish and laughable. And yet, there are times when we praise people for their self-discipline – usually athletes. Right now, the Winter Olympics are on in and around Beijing. We hear a lot about the athletes and the training and self-discipline it took to get them onto the podium. Like the prudent person in Proverbs, their eyes are on the prize; they give thought to what will get them there and what will derail them and make choices that consider the long-term outcomes. (Even Paul uses the sports analogy in 1 Cor. 9:24-27.)

The mature Christians Paul describes in Titus 1 are self-disciplined and prudent. They treat others well, have healthy relationships, are free to enjoy God’s many good gifts in ways that help them and others thrive, and make a positive difference in the world around them. They can do this because they’re grounded in the truth. And in the end, that is truly cool.