Lord, keep me mindful of the needs of those who are less fortunate.
Read 1 TIMOTHY 5:1–16
Widows, Elders and Slaves
5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Pray that faith and generosity will be released among God’s people.
Caring for widows was an established practice in the early church, but here there seem to be so many widows that caring for them all has become burdensome and controversial. Paul addresses the question first by appealing to family: as a proof of their sincerity as disciples (8), local families should care for their own widows (4,16). Paul then allows that the church should support a widow (3) if she’s without local family, of known good character and over the age of sixty (9,10). Some writers identify a formal order of widows to accompany the overseers and deacons. This seems to go further than the text justifies. What we can tentatively say is that a widow pledged not to remarry (11,13) and, perhaps, pledged to devote herself to prayer and good works (5) was added to the list.
Being thus supported has allowed some widows to become unprofitably idle. Some have become pleasure seekers (6), while others were avidly meddling and talking nonsense (13). If the connection to promoting false teaching is here implied, 2 Timothy 3:6,7 makes it explicit: these meddlesome widows are involved in spreading false teaching from one church to another.
Having witnessed the impact of younger widows making a promise they can’t keep (11,12) and the impact on the church’s reputation (14,15), Paul tells Timothy to deny them support and challenge them to marry again. Withdrawing support is also commanded for the pleasure seekers, probably with the hope of drawing them back to God. As in Acts 6, dealing skillfully with these difficult issues is crucial to restoring peace within the church. Paul tells Timothy to
share this publicly (7) so that everyone may know that he is simply implementing Paul’s instructions.
Think of a situation known to you where resources are scarce and there’s controversy about the way forward. Ask God to give you wisdom as to how to proceed.
Lord, thank You for church members who give enough to enable the church to assist deserving widows and others who are in need.