Devotional # 204. 8/29/16. 1 Timothy 5:1-16.
Intro. Last week Paul exhorted Timothy in things he should do specifically pertaining to his situation, but they were also beneficial for us to apply to our lives. Today we’ll be briefly studying how to exhort people in the church, but the majority of the Scripture is focused on three types of widows. I love how God provides for widows and we can apply this to our lives since we all are either related to or know a widow. Probably the most applicable are our mom’s, mother-in-law’s and grandmothers who need to be taken care of. Let’s read to find what our mindset and godly attitude should be!
vv. 1-2. Respect for others. In the same way that Timothy was not supposed to allow others to despise him for his youth (1 Timothy 4:12, Devotional # 203) he was not supposed to despise or act disrespectfully towards others in the church. The idea of the church being a family is brought out by Paul here. In the same way we’re to honor our mothers and fathers (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1, Devotional # 111) we’re to honor the older men “as a father” and elderly ladies “as mothers.” The same with younger men and women and the point of all of this is to make sure you don’t shame the body of Christ but instead build them up. Sometimes younger people have more common sense and wisdom then their elders, so are they supposed to despise them or not share that God-given wisdom? No, they are to exhort them and encourage them. How? In all love and “all purity”, not with ulterior motives or a prideful, demeaning heart.
vv. 3-8. True widows. Apparently the church in Ephesus had an issue with ladies impostering widows in order to be taken care of. So Paul gives Timothy a litmus test to check that the widows receiving church support truly needed it. These are great standards for us to live by today. How do we know where resources should go? In my mind the worse thing would be to support someone who was being lazy or a scam artist while someone truly in need was turned away. So Paul says if they have family let the family take care of them. Not only will this benefit the elderly lady but it will give the family godly life-skills (v. 4), not to mention lessen the burden on the church. Paul finishes this section condemning the family that calls themselves Christians, knowing what to do, but not doing it (v. 8). I have several friends who have to sacrifice for their mom or mother-in-law living with them or having to pay for a retirement home. The true Christian recognizes that God will help them take on this burden and will grow them through this time.
If the widow doesn’t have family and desires to be taken care of she needs to do two things. 1. “trust in God”, and 2. “continue in supplications and prayers night and day” (v. 5). Receiving support from the church should be free from monetary cost but that doesn’t mean the widow doesn’t have any responsibility to the Lord. These two requirements can be done anywhere at any time, but I find it interesting because they’re not really something that can just be started the day the widow starts receiving help from the church. It seems rather that Paul is telling Timothy to take care of the widows who have been faithful to the Lord, having “trusted in Him” and “supplicated” and “prayed” to Him in the past (for a reminder on supplication and prayer see Devotional # 197 from 1 Timothy 2:1-2). This is such an important requirement that Paul tells Timothy to command them to do these things (v. 7). Remember last week when we talked about the need for commands (Devotional # 203).
vv. 9-10. 60+ year old widows. These verses mark a new section; Paul isn’t talking about the general widows from verses 3-8 anymore. Now he’s talking about a separate group of elderly ladies, similar although separate from deaconesses (which traditionally started the ministry at 40 years old and had all kinds of ladies among them including virgins and widows). This special group of 60+ year old ladies would have “ministered with sympathizing counsel to other widows and to orphans” as well as “general supervision over ladies” as seen in Acts 9:41 (Source 1) . The idea here is that a person desiring to serve in the church needs to be tested that they understand the responsibility and that they are trustworthy and dependable. Fausset spends a good amount of time describing this (although maybe a bit confusing) if you would like to read more see Source 1.
vv. 11-16. Young widows. Paul now focuses on another group: “young widows.” It’s important to understand Paul had experience with this type of situation so he wasn’t being mean, just honest and doing what’s best for everyone involved. Experience had shown Paul that typically ladies who had been widowed while still young had a natural desire for camaraderie so most of the time they would want to get re-married (v. 11). It doesn’t make sense to expect them to take on responsibilities that weren’t right for them but, on the other hand, they also shouldn’t be allowed to run wild (vv. 13, 15). Instead, giving them time to see if their heart desires marriage and raising a family, that is wise. David Guzik explains, “Paul is not condemning any young widow’s desire for romantic companionship; but he insists that it be pursued and expressed in the purity that befits all believers” (Source 2). For the fourth time in this passage (vv. 4, 5, 8) Paul reminds us that if the widow has family they should take care of them.
Conclusion. We learned a lot today about a rarely taught subject of how to help widows. God’s great practices of distinguishing between needy, “true widows” and scammers, and how to provide for what type of person you’re helping is very informative.
Prayer. Lord, help us to get our eyes off ourselves and to focus on the elderly who need our help. We pray that we would have Your loving and compassionate heart towards those truly in need. We pray that You would be pleased with the beautiful women who have served You and continue to serve You. Please bless them and help us provide for them as You provide for us. Amen.
Source 1: A.R. Fausset, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_005.cfm?a=1124001
Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_5.cfm?a=1124001