1 Timothy 5:1–16 (NKJV)
1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.1 Timothy 5:1
In chapter 5, Paul moves to a discussion of how to treat and honor the elderly who have been made widows or widowers. He starts by telling Timothy how to address or deal with an older man. Paul says that Timothy should not rebuke an older man. It is appropriate to exhort him, encouraging and perhaps instructing, but never shame or embarrass an older man. Treat him as a father and younger men as brothers. Also, treat older women like mothers and younger women as sisters, keeping you thoughts and actions pure in all your dealings with members of the body of Christ. I think Paul is helping Timothy guard against disrespect against older people and is also guarding against harsh or lascivious treatment of younger men and women, Timothy’s peers. How one treats those around him or her says a lot about their dedication to God as opposed to their dedication to self-satisfaction. Selfless servant leadership causes leaders to treat others well while at the same time helping them improve and become more like Christ. Treat others in ways that build them up in their faith and reputation, and not in ways that tear them down or oppress them.
3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 5 Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. 8 But 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.1 Timothy 5:2-16
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan. 16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
Paul then moves into a discussion of how to treat widows. He makes a distinction between real widows and those who have families that can support and care for them. If a widow has children or grandchildren, those family members should take her in and repay their parents for rearing them and caring for them in their childhood and early life. This is God’s will and good in general. Those women who do not have families to care for them, however, become the responsibility of the church. In the early church under Paul’s leadership, it appears that the real widows became part of a group similar to either matriarchs or nuns within the church, and they should continue in prayers daily, trusting God, and ministering in ways that are appropriate to their age and role in the church. However, the widow that lives in pleasure, ignoring the Lord and His calling, are dead while they still live, not blameless before God.
Because of this, there are certain situations that must be addressed to help widows maintain a Godly life. For instance, widows under sixty years old must not be brought into the widow care of the church unless they have been faithful wives, doing all manner of good works, ministering to her children, strangers, the afflicted, and the saints. Those that have proven themselves can be trusted to enter the ranks of the matriarchs. Young widows should not be brought into the widow care of the church, because they are likely to desire to marry again, and will not dedicate themselves to the service of the church. They will eventually become wanton and cast off their vows and orders to serve the church, longing for a husband. This makes sense and is appropriate. As a matter of fact, Paul encourages young widows to remarry and bear children and rear families. If they do not, they may suffer in idleness, run from house to house, and gossip, bringing condemnation on their souls.
Paul adds a summary statement here, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” This gives even the church of today food for thought. How do we care for our widows? How do we treat our elderly? Do they have places of honor in the church? Are they forgotten and left to fend for themselves? Let us determine to honor the elderly and treat the young as family. Let’s encourage families to care for those who are left alone, and care directly for those who have no family. Let’s treat everyone like family, old and young alike, respecting those who paved the way for us, and encouraging the young in their faith that they may rise up and take a place of honor as well. This church is a family, and should operate as one.
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