1 Timothy 5 is a very interesting passage. Paul lays out some specific instructions to help guide Timothy in his ministry leading a church body. He makes some distinctions that we do not often make in our society today. We do well to truly reflect on this passage and let it guide our behavior and focus as a church.
One interesting distinction is that he does not refer to all widows as one group with the same guidance for all. He separates it based on age, based on behavior and attitude. He suggests the church body should be focused on helping those who truly don’t have family to care for them. He also rather firmly asserts ” 8But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
3Honor widows who are widows indeed; 4but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. 13At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 16If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
I think the guidance is good that is given in regards to treating elders as if father or mother when giving a rebuke, younger folks like brother and sister. This perhaps helps us limit the condemnation in our rebuke and focus our help as offered in love. The rebuke is still applied, but in a more gentle and loving way.
It is a good reminder that even the pagans take care of their own household. We are failing in our faith if we don’t take care of ours. We should not rely on the church body to care for our own household. In this way the church body can focus on those who are truly alone and without support.
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