BIBLE STUDY


Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

THE CHURCH'S MINISTRY TO OLDER MEMBERS & WIDOWS
(1 Timothy 5:1-16)

1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
3 Honor widows who are widows indeed;
4 but 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.
5 Now 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.
6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.
7 Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach.
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.
9 A 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,
10 having 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.
11 But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married,
12 thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge.
13 At 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.
14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.
16 If 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. (1 Timothy 5:1-16)


 
What causes problems in churches? Often, it is people not getting along with each other. Brothers and sisters do not always dwell together in unity. Paul suggests that we treat other people the way we would treat members of our own family. If the older people complain about things, deal with them as you would your father or mother, and accept the younger believers as brothers and sisters. This is simply a call to love others as God loves you. Not everybody who asks for help should receive it. Charity should begin at home, and church leaders must exercise discernment lest they create more problems than they solve. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]
 

QuoteWorthy: Great Profit
When there is mutual respect and affection, then the wisdom and experience of age can cooperate with the strength and enthusiasm of youth, to the great profit of both. - William Barclay [ref]

1 TIMOTHY 5:1 - The Christian Leader and Relationships (vv. 1-2)

"[T]he local church is rightly called ‘the church family’, in which there are fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, not to mention aunts and uncles, grandparents and children. Leaders should not be insensitive and treat everybody alike. No, they must behave towards their elders with respect, affection and gentleness, their own generation with equality, the opposite sex with self-control and purity, and all ages of both sexes with that love which binds together members of the same family." [ref]

sharply rebuke ... appeal (1 Timothy 5:1)
"Respect for age must temper the expression of reproof of an old man’s misdemeanors." [ref]

Whereas in the previous section Paul had instructed Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12), here Paul tells him "to bear in mind his youth, and to behave with the modesty which becomes a young man in relation to his elders." [ref] What's more, "treatment of the elders was widely viewed in the ancient world as a litmus test of the community's moral maturity." [ref]

While this does not mean Timothy is not to confront an older person who is sinning, it does mean he is not to do so in "a harsh, dictatorial, and denunciatory manner."  [ref] Timothy is to avoid "pounding with words." [ref] "On the one hand, [Paul] does not want Timothy to spare the older people, permitting them to 'get away' with their sins. On the other hand, he desires that they be treated with due respect." [ref]

"Appeal" literally means "to call to one's side," and can be defined as "to aid, help, comfort, encourage." [ref] It is used some 110 times in the NT (NASB) (half by the apostle Paul), where it is used in the sense of appealing, begging, comforting, encouraging, entreating, exhorting, imploring, pleading, and urging.

We may also wish to recall that, as the apostle Paul's representative, Timothy was given charge of all the churches in the area of Ephesus. Much of what Paul counsels both here and throughout this letter would first be modeled by Timothy and then delegated by him to the elders and deacons within the various churches. Hence "[w]hat Paul addresses to Timothy ... is, indeed, to be observed by Timothy, but in such a way that he may direct all others in the churches to observe it likewise. Timothy could not possibly do all of the admonishing necessary in all these congregations, nor does Paul expect him to do this." [ref]

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A LOVING REBUKE

We may reprimand a person in such a way that there is clearly nothing but anger in our voice and nothing but bitterness in our minds and hearts. A rebuke given solely in anger may produce fear; and may cause pain; but it will almost inevitably arouse resentment; and its ultimate effect may well be to confirm the mistaken person in the error of his ways. The rebuke of anger and the reprimand of contemptuous dislike are seldom effective, and far more likely to do harm than good.

The rebuke which clearly comes from love is the only effective one. If we ever have cause to reprimand anyone, we must do so in such a way as to make it clear that we do this, not because we find a cruel pleasure in it, not because we wish to do it, but because we are under the compulsion of love and seek to help, not to hurt.

- William Barclay [ref]


The harsh rebuke that Timothy is to avoid using is the depersonalizing "tongue-lashing." This method of correction relies on fear and authority and is often applied when feelings of anger and insecurity are running high. Exhortation is a far more effective method of ministry. It includes correcting, admonishing, encouraging and comforting. This kind of ministry values the relationship between believers far above any need to assert or prove lines of authority. It seeks to promote unity at (almost) all costs.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

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SHARPLY REBUKE ... APPEAL TO

The verb rebuke harshly (epiplēssō; NASB: sharply rebuke) carries overtones of violent treatment (the related noun, a violent man [plēktēs], is used to denote a person unfit for the office of bishop/ elder in 1 Timothy 3:3; Tit 1:7).

Exhort (parakaleō; NASB: appeal to), the approved style of ministry, is listed among ministry gifts in Romans 12:8 and appears elsewhere in reference to spiritual encouragement and admonition (see 1 Cor 14:3; 2 Cor 10:1; Phil 2:1; Heb 3:13). It seems to imply genuine concern and personal involvement; the related noun comforter (paraklētos) is applied to the Holy Spirit.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

younger men as brothers (1 Timothy 5:1)
Timothy is to treat the younger men as equals. [ref]

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FAMILY

The family is viewed in both Testaments as a basic unit of the believing community. In the NT the image of the family is one of the primary ways in which Scripture explains the nature of Christians’ relationships with God and one another.

Old Testament
The Hebrew concept of family
The foundation for the biblical view of family is laid in Ge 2. There God instituted marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman. This stable relationship is the foundation of a stable society. The larger groupings of OT society -- the tribe and the clan -- are expressions of extended family relationships. It is particularly significant that the OT focuses on the family as central in communicating faith to children.

Two Hebrew words are typically used to indicate the family: mishpâchâh is translated “family” in the NIV and NASB and bayith means “house” but is often used in the sense of “family” (as in “the house of” someone; e.g., Ex 2:1; 2 Sa 21:1; 2 Ch 10:19; Hos 1:4) or is translated “household.”

In American culture, the family is increasingly perceived as the nuclear unit of husband and wife and their children. Both mishpâchâh and bayith are terms with much more flexible meaning. Depending on context, a family or household in the OT might be the nuclear family, an extended family of three or more generations plus any servants living with them, or an even wider circle of relatives who trace their family bond back to a common male ancestor. Thus when we read “family” or “household” in the OT, we need to let the context determine how many persons this very flexible term is intended to include.

New Testament
The Greek words translated “family”

The most common words to express the concept of family in the NT are oikos, “house,” and its derivatives. This parallels the use of bayith in the OT. Oikos may indicate the couple, their children, and any servants or relatives living in the home (1 Ti 3:5, 12). It may also represent an entire people, such as Israel (Lk 1:33; Ac 7:42), or the Christian community (1 Ti 3:15; 1 Pe 4:17; cf. Eph 2:19, “household” [oikeios]).

The significant term patria is found only three times in the NT. This term for family means “father’s house” and focuses attention on the particular forefather who is the origin of the family group and who also provides it with its identity (Lk 2:4; Ac 3:25; Eph 3:15).

The church and the family
The house, or family, is the smallest natural group in the NT congregation. In the church the family remains basic in the nurture of children in the faith. In NT times the house was the primary place of meeting and fellowship for believers (e.g., Ac 2:46; 16:15; Phm 2). For the first centuries of the Christian era, believers did not meet in church buildings but in smaller, more intimate groups in homes. Thus, the greeting in Ro 16:5 to the “church that meets at” the house of Priscilla and Aquila is a reflection of the normal pattern of early church life. It was very natural for early Christians, meeting in household groups, to sense deeply the family quality of their mutual relationship as children of God.
It is also significant that the NT pays attention not only to relationships within families (Eph 5:22–6:9; Col 3:18–24; 1 Pe 3:1–7) but also to relationships between believers who are called on to live together and to “love as brothers” (e.g., Ro 12:9–16; Eph 5:1–21; Col 3:12–15; 1 Ti 5).

The church as family
Eph 3:15 uses the theologically significant term patria to affirm that God’s “whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” from him whom we know as Father. As children of the same Father, we believers have a common origin and common identity that is shared with all other believers everywhere. Paul goes on to pray that, “rooted and established in love,” we who are God’s family may grow “together” to experience Jesus’ love and so be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (3:16–19). We are family. Experience of the intimacy and love appropriate to family members is basic to personal and corporate spiritual growth (4:12–16).

Images of the family relationship abound in the NT. Believers are addressed as brothers and sisters; the church is considered to be the household of God (Eph 2:19–20).

The intimate link between the family and the church is also seen in Paul’s instructions concerning recognition of spiritual leaders. A leader is to “manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Ti 3:4–5). The same emphasis is found in Titus, which suggests that a leader be “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” (Titus 1:6). Because the church is a family, leadership in the church has strong parallels to the leadership to be provided by a parent for his or her children.

Household salvation
One of the theological questions posed by some Christians focuses on the link between natural family relationships and God’s plan of salvation. The OT covenant provided a special relationship between God and the descendants (family) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Is there also established between the Lord and the believer a special relationship that extends beyond the believing individual to encompass his or her family too? Two NT passages are used to support such a relationship.

Ac 16:31 records Paul’s promise to the Philippian jailer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household.” The passage continues: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God -- he and his whole family” (16:32–34).

There seems no need to understand this passage to teach household salvation. The promise was given to the jailer and his whole household. All were there to hear the gospel presented, and all believed.

What is possibly suggested here is the influence of the head of a household. In many cultures, individual decisions are strongly influenced by what the head of a family or clan decides to do. In this sense certainly the faith of the head of a household has significant impact on family members.

The other passage used is 1 Co 7:14. This says that the unbelieving partner in a mixed marriage is in some sense sanctified by the believer, as are any children. This is a difficult passage. But there is no compelling reason why its meaning should be pressed beyond the fact that each family with a believing member is in a unique position to hear the gospel.

The basic reason for questioning the concept of household salvation, however, comes from the nature of the very OT covenant on which the doctrine is based. The Abrahamic covenant did establish a special relationship between God and the people of Israel, but each individual Israelite was still called on to make a personal choice. Each had to either trust the God of the covenant and obey him or else remain in unbelief and disobedience. The covenant promises to Israel never, in themselves, guaranteed the salvation of any given individual. In fact, Israel’s history is marked by the massive unbelief of whole generations, despite the covenant. Thus the OT covenants can hardly be used to support the notion that the salvation of the head of a modern household, or the salvation of one of its members, is a divine guarantee that other family members will be saved.

Summary
Both OT and NT view the family as the basic unit of society and of the believing community. The family is the first and most significant influence in the spiritual training of children.

The concept of family is flexible in the OT and may indicate a number of widening blood relationships. The NT concept reflects both OT thought and the culture of the NT world.

In the NT we see that the family is particularly important in the Christian congregation. The early church met in homes, an ideal context for building household and family-type personal relationships. The church saw itself as family -- a relationship based on common spiritual birth into the household of God. NT descriptions of relationships among believers constantly stress the intimate and sharing love that is appropriate among brothers and sisters.

The modern church cannot and should not try to reproduce every structure of the early Christian community. But there are certain things that are basic to the very nature and identity of the church. Whatever structures a local congregation evolves, it is clear that these structures must help members live together and love one another as family. This is utterly basic to what it means to belong to Jesus and his church.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:2 - The Christian Leader and Relationships (vv. 1-2)

older women ... younger women (1 Timothy 15:2)
When it is necessary to confront them, this should be done with "mildness, gentleness, and affection."  [ref

in all purity (1 Timothy 5:2)
Paul

 
knew the danger which would beset a youthful minister of the gospel when it was his duty to admonish and entreat a youthful female; he knew, too, the scandal to which he might be exposed if, in the performance of the necessary duties of his office, there should be the slightest departure from purity and propriety. He was therefore to guard his heart with more than common vigilance in such circumstances, and was to indulge in no word, or look, or action, which could by any possibility be construed as manifesting an improper state of feeling. ... A youthful minister who fails here, can never recover the perfect purity of an unsullied reputation, and never in subsequent life be wholly free from suspicion.  [ref
 

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SENSIBLE SENSITIVITY

[M]ore than a caring style of ministry is required to cross with sensitivity the social lines indicated in [1 Timothy 5:1-2]. In Timothy's day, role relationships within and across social boundaries were well defined. Respectability was determined by one's adherence to such rules of behavior. Becoming a Christian by no means meant that these social rules ceased to apply. On the contrary, all believers were to obey them (compare Tit 2:1-10). As models, Christian leaders, far from being above the rules, were all the more bound by them.

Paul urges an approach to ministry that values relationships and personal involvement and applies to all cultures. Yet the rules of respect in social relationships may vary somewhat from culture to culture, and the church and its leaders must be sensitive to obey them. Sensitive ministry will promote the church's unity and guard its witness to those outside.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

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AVOIDING EVEN A HINT

The same guidelines that guard families from immorality and impropriety can guard our relationships within the body of Christ:

  • There should be no sex outside of marriage, and even lustful thoughts are prohibited.
  • Believers are to guard one another against sexual exploitation in the same way that we would protect a family member. Depending on the culture, certain members may require special protection. In our own culture, women and children have been subjects of mistreatment.
  • We are to pursue each other's best interests and development as people. Inappropriate sexual conduct would surely hinder a person's spiritual growth.
  • Sexual humor, overfamiliarity, and inappropriate or unwelcomed touching are unacceptable behaviors for believers.
  • Pursuing uncomfortable verbal intimacies or suggestive conversations, even if not accompanied by physical contact, can be harmful to another believer, hindering his or her spiritual growth and blocking further ministry.
  • Brotherly attitudes demand a respect for privacy and an active effort to relate to women with emphasis on their personhood rather than their sexuality.
  • Even "innocent" behavior at inappropriate times or places should be avoided. Counseling or visitation one-on-one with members of the opposite sex should be done with another person present. "Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22 NRSV).
- Life Application Bible Commentary: New Testament [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:3
A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
Material Needs

When there are legitimate material needs among believers that cannot be met by family members, as a church we are to assist in meeting these needs. (see 1 Timothy 5:3-16) [ref]

"From the time of Israel's inception, God has been known as the defender of widows (Deut 10:18; 24:17). 'Justice' among God's people was measured in part by the treatment of widows (Isaiah 1:17). God's compassion for the widow became the covenant community's responsibility, which the early church naturally took up (Acts 6:1; Jas 1:27)." [ref]

"[T]he care of widows was apparently becoming a major burden to the congregation in Ephesus and called for clarification as to who was really a widow qualifying for support." [ref] In the remainder of this section, Paul addresses two different types or catergories of widows. Those in the first group (1 Timothy 5:3-8) are to receive financial support from the local church, and the criteria for admission is "destitution and godliness." Those in the second group (1 Timothy 5:9-16) are to be given opportunities for ministry, and the criteria for admission "is a combination of seniority, married faithfulness and a reputation for good works." [ref]

Honor widows (1 Timothy 5:3)
This would include both respectful treatment and financial support. [ref] [ref] [ref]

Paul addresses two different classes of widows: distressed widows (1 Timothy 5:3-8) and widows employed by the church (1 Timothy 5:9-16). [ref]

"In the Pastorals [widows] receive special notice, indicating their advance from the position of mere beneficiaries to a quasi-official position in the church. From the very first, the church recognised its obligation to care for their support. A widow, in the East, was peculiarly desolate and helpless. In return for their maintenance certain duties were required of them, such as the care of orphans, sick and prisoners, and they were enrolled in an order, which, however, did not include all of their number who received alms of the church." [ref]

widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:3)
This refers to widows "who are absolutely bereaved, with no children or relations" to care for them. [ref] Widows "were common in the ancient world due to a number of factors. First, women tended to marry earlier in life than men, usually in their early teens, because of societal expectations that they marry as virgins. The same did not apply to men, and most delayed marriage into their twenties and even thirties, as marriage incurred responsibility. That age disparity between husbands and wives, along with disease, wars, and other factors of mortality, created many widows." [ref]

In Paul's day Roman law "required that if a dowry was paid upon marriage the widow would be provided for by the new head of her deceased husband's household -- usually her son. If there was no son or the household was dissolved, then the proceeds of its sale would repay the dowry and the widow would be returned to her parents. Of course, if there was no dowry paid, nor a family to which a widow could return, as evidently is the case for the 'widows indeed,' then a subsistent providentia was provided to the widow by the city-state (in this case, Ephesus)." [ref] (also see [ref] [ref])

And so Paul's counsel to Timothy may represent, at least in part, the Judeo-Christian understanding that "the congregation rather than the state [is to take] responsibility for its poor as a matter of sacred (rather than civic) duty (cf. Acts 6:1-6; 9:39; Jas. 1:26-27; also Luke 7:11-17)." [ref]

In addition, "widows indeed" may include wives of a polygamous marriage who were sent away after they (and/or their husband) were converted to the Christian faith. [ref]

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WIDOW

A woman whose husband has died, and frequently classed with the fatherless and orphans (Dt 14:29; 16:11; 24:20; 26:12; Ps 94:6). Laws were passed to make special provision for this group and to protect them against the unscrupulous.

As the main purpose of the wife was to bear children, the childless widow, or the widow who had no son, was a person who had disgraced her family by not providing the male heir essential to the continuity of the family line. Probably for this reason the deceased man’s brother was expected to marry the widow, whose firstborn son was then treated in all respects as the son of the deceased. This levirate marriage (cf. Dt 25:5–10), seen best in the Book of Ruth, may have originated as a form of inheritance, the brother-in-law taking by right the property of the deceased, including his widow. The idea of levirate marriage may have been altered by the Israelites so that the primary purpose was changed to that of the continuation of the family name, thereby perpetuating the memory of the ancestors.

Legally the widow was ignored for purposes of inheritance, and if her husband died prematurely, this was considered a judgment for the life he had led, and she became an object of reproach, partly for her inability to prevent his untimely death (Ru 1:20, 21; Is 54:4). A childless widow who was the daughter of a priest could return home, where she again became subject to her father (Lv 22:13; cf. Ru 1:8). The only improvement in her legal status was that her oath was accepted, there being no husband to revoke it (Nm 30:9).

Remarriage was the ideal solution to the problem of widowhood, although priests were forbidden to marry widows (Lv 21:14; Ru 1:9, 13; 1 Sm 25:39; Ez 44:22; 1 Tm 5:14). It is possible that the widow may have worn special clothing forcing her to acknowledge her status (Gn 38:14).

The plight of the widow was recognized in the number of laws designed for her protection and even survival. God was her legal protector (Ps 68:5), and saw that she was provided with the essentials of food and clothing (Dt 10:18). Those who denied her justice were cursed by God (Dt 27:19). At harvest time the widow might glean the grain in the fields as well as some grapes and olives (Dt 24:19; Ru 2:2, 7, 15–19), and she was also eligible for some assistance from the third-year tithe. Nevertheless, the poverty of widows and the cruel treatment extended to them was so widespread that frequent reference is made to it (Jb 24:21; Ps 94:6; Is 1:23; Mal 3:5). A special law provided that the widow’s garment could not be used as security for a loan (Dt 24:17).

In the early Christian church there was a recognized group of widows eligible to receive charity. They were generally those over 60 years of age who had only been married once, were in poverty, had no relatives to support them, and had lived blameless lives filled with Christian good works (1 Tm 5:9–16).

The figurative use of the term “widow” seems to indicate that it was the absolute depth to which one might fall. Isaiah 47:8, 9 and Revelation 18:7 use the term with regard to the fate of Babylon, and the devastation of the once mighty and beautiful city of Jerusalem is likened to a wife who has become a widow (Lm 1:1).

- Hazel W. Perkin [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:4 - Family Responsibility (vv. 4, 7-8)

"To care adequately for our own elderly family members is to repay our parents (1 Timothy 5:4), to please God (1 Timothy 5:4), to express and not deny the faith (1 Timothy 5:8), and to relieve the church (1 Timothy 5:16)." [ref]

they must first learn (1 Timothy 5:4)
This "implies that abuses of this kind had crept into the Church, widows claiming Church support though they had children or grandchildren able to support them." [ref]

practice piety in regard to their own family (1 Timothy 5:4)
Here "the home is envisioned as the initial 'test tube' of faith." Practicing piety in this regard means dutifully "returning the good which children and grandchildren have received in childhood from their parents." [ref] "'Their own' stands in opposition to the Church, in relation to which the widow is comparatively a stranger. She has a claim on her own children, prior to her claim on the Church; let them fulfil this prior claim which she has on them, by sustaining her and not burdening the Church." [ref]

This is often a difficult thing to do. "By nature children are often disinclined to provide for their needy parents. According to a Dutch proverb it frequently seems easier for one poor father to bring up ten children than for ten rich children to provide for one poor father." [ref] However, "[g]odly children will welcome the opportunity and will delight the more in embracing it because it meets with God’s approval." [ref]

A widow's surviving children or grandchildren should care for her. This is "their first and natural obligation." [ref] There is to be "[n]o 'corban' business here. No acts of 'piety' toward God will make up for impiety towards parents." [ref]

make some return to their parents (1 Timothy 5:4)
This means "make some repayment to their parents" [ref], and "parents" actually includes "mothers and grandmothers and living ancestors generally." [ref]

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CORBAN

Greek transliteration of a Hebrew term (korban) that occurs only in Mark 7:11, where Mark provides an editorial explanation: corban is “given,” that is, “dedicated or given to God.” Hence, corban is an offering.

Jewish law allowed individuals to earmark their service or property as “dedicated to God,” thus removing it from profane use and giving it the character of an offering intended for God. To do this was a serious decision (see Mishna, Nedarim) and was rarely reversed (Ned 5), for violation of a corban vow risked the severe consequences of divine judgment. In Mark 7 Jesus chastises the scribes because, theoretically, a son could exclude his parents from gaining any benefit from his estate by declaring his property “corban to them.” This in effect nullifies the fourth commandment (see Ex 20:12), setting rabbinic traditions against the Law of Moses. Worse still, if the son repented of his vow -- arguing that it had been given in haste -- a rabbinic tribunal would no doubt forbid a reversal of corban (Mk 7:12; cf. Nm 30:1, 2).

- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:5 - The Honorable Widow (vv. 5, 9-10)

"Genuine poverty often drove widows to exemplary lives of prayer and faithful dependence upon God. For such widows, the church is to be the visible hand of God in providing for needs." [ref]

left alone (1 Timothy 5:5)
That is, "[w]ithout husband, children, or other close kin." [ref] She had no one "on whom she could depend for support." [ref

has fixed her hope on God (1 Timothy 5:5)
This means that she has fixed her hope -- and keeps it -- on God. [ref] "[S]he feels her dependence, and steadily looks to God for consolation and support."  [ref] "While hope, that determined expectancy and trust in God's sufficiency, is to mark all believers, the believing widow with no one else to turn to learns to excel in this discipline. The discipline of hope finds expression in personal communication in prayer to God for help." [ref]

continues in entreaties and prayers night and day (1 Timothy 5:5)
This type of widow fixes her hope on God "by ever continuing with her petitions, by laying all her needs before God, and by her prayers (the wider word which includes all types of praying), at night on her pillow, by day when worry would assail her about this or that." [ref]

"The emphasis rests on the fact that, with her, praying is not a 'now and then' affair; she continues in her supplications and in her prayers." [ref]

This brings to mind the example of Anna: "Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer" (Luke 2:36-37 NLT).

"Such a one, Paul implies, would be the fittest object for the Church’s help (1 Timothy 5:3); for such a one is promoting the cause of Christ’s Church by her prayers for it." [ref]

Warren Wiersbe offers a word of both commendation and condemnation when it comes to widows in the church:

 
It has been my experience in three different pastorates that godly widows are “spiritual powerhouses” in the church. They are the backbone of the prayer meetings. They give themselves to visitation, and they swell the ranks of teachers in the Sunday School. It has also been my experience that, if a widow is not godly, she can be a great problem to the church. She will demand attention, complain about what the younger people do, and often “hang on the telephone” and gossip. (Of course, it is not really “gossip.” She only wants her friends to be able to “pray more intelligently” about these matters!) Paul made it clear (1 Tim. 5:7) that church-helped widows must be “blameless” -- irreproachable. [ref]
 

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1 TIMOTHY 5:6

she who gives herself to wanton pleasure (1 Timothy 5:6)
Notice how Paul uses "she" rather than "widow." [ref]

This "does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures; but the kind of pleasure connected with luxurious living, and with pampering the appetites."  [ref] On the other hand, several commentators suggest that this "may be a euphemism for a widow who, lacking dowry, relatives or profession, has no alternative to prostitution." [ref]

dead even while she lives (1 Timothy 5:6)
She is dead spiritually although alive in the flesh [ref], which may well indicate that she is not a genuine Christian. [ref] [ref] At the very least, such a widow "is already useless to God and others while she still lives physically." [ref] This also means she is "separated from fellowship ... with God and the church." [ref]

One commentator notes: "There have been two deaths, two funerals: her husband died, and the spiritual life in her died. He is a corpse, she a living one, her state is far worse than his." [ref]

It has been said that "[l]ife in worldly pleasure is only life in appearance." [ref] Self-indulgence = spiritual death, while self-denial = spiritual life. [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:7 - Family Responsibility (vv. 4, 7-8)

Prescribe these things (1 Timothy 5:7)
"Announce, or declare these things." [ref] This refers to what Paul has been saying about the widows. "Some things stated in this letter are simply to guide Timothy in his work of supervision; others he is 'to announce' publicly in the churches and thus 'to order' [NASB: 'prescribe']; everybody concerned is to be informed and is at the same time to comply." [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:8 - Family Responsibility (vv. 4, 7-8)

provide for his own (1 Timothy 5:8)
This is a reflection of God's providence toward us. Just as God prepares in advance to meet our needs, we are to do likewise regarding our families in general and our parents in particular. [ref] [ref]

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LIFE ASSURANCE POLICY

Here is an issue of considerable contemporary importance. As the medical care of the elderly improves, particularly in the West, the average age of the population continues to rise. There are many more old folk than ever before. Geriatric wards, homes and hospitals are full. And it is fine that the church and the government should provide these. But not if it means that senior citizens are abandoned or neglected by their own relatives. African and Asian cultures, which have developed the extended in place of the nuclear family, are a standing rebuke to the West in this matter. Verse 8 tells us that it is a fundamental Christian duty to provide for our relatives. This is plain biblical warrant for a life assurance policy, which is only a self-imposed savings plan for the benefit of our dependants. It is not a contradiction of Jesus who told us to ‘take no thought’ for the future (Mt. 6:25ff.), since he was prohibiting worry, not prudence or forethought. Nor is Paul contradicting his own dictum that ‘children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children’ (2 Cor. 12:14), for this is obviously the right perspective when parents are in their prime. But when parents grow old and feeble, it is then that roles and responsibilities are reversed. Proverbs 6 sends us to the ants to learn wisdom. They set us a fine example both of industry and of providing for the future. What they do by instinct, human beings should do by deliberate decision.

- John Stott [ref]


The New Testament ethical writers were certain that support of parents was an essential part of Christian duty. It is a thing to be remembered. We live in a time when even the most sacred duties are pushed on to the state and when we expect, in so many cases, public charity to do what private piety ought to do. As the Pastorals see it, help given to a parent is two things. First, it is an honouring of the recipient. It is the only way in which a child can demonstrate the esteem within his heart. Second, it is an admission of the claims of love. It is repaying love received in time of need with love given in time of need; and only with love can love be repaid.

There remains one thing left to say, and to leave it unsaid would be unfair. This very passage goes on to lay down certain of the qualities of the people whom the Church is called upon to support. What is true of the Church is true within the family. If a person is to be supported, that person must be supportable. If a parent is taken into a home and then by inconsiderate conduct causes nothing but trouble, another situation arises. There is a double duty here; the duty of the child to support the parent and the duty of the parent to be such that that support is possible within the structure of the home.

- William Barclay [ref]

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PROVIDENCE

Providence is normally defined in Christian theology as the unceasing activity of the Creator whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill (Ps. 145:9 cf. Mt. 5:45–48), he upholds his creatures in ordered existence (Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), guides and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men (cf. Ps. 107; Jb. 1:12; 2:6; Gn. 45:5–8), and directs everything to its appointed goal, for his own glory (cf. Eph. 1:9–12).

This view of God’s relation to the world must be distinguished from:

  • pantheism, which absorbs the world into God;
  • deism, which cuts it off from him;
  • dualism, which divides control of it between God and another power;
  • indeterminism, which holds that it is under no control at all;
  • determinism, which posits a control of a kind that destroys man’s moral responsibility;
  • the doctrine of chance, which denies the controlling power to be rational; and
  • the doctrine of fate, which denies it to be benevolent.

Providence is presented in Scripture as a function of divine sovereignty. God is King over all, doing just what he wills (Pss. 103:19; 135:6; Dn. 4:35; cf. Eph. 1:11). This conviction, robustly held, pervades the whole Bible. The main strands [include the natural order, world history, personal circumstances, and human freedom.]

- J. I. Packer [ref]

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STORING UP TREASURE?

1 Timothy 5:8 -- Does this contradict Jesus’ instruction about not storing treasures on earth?

PROBLEM: Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19). Luke added, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). By contrast, Paul affirmed that “If anyone does not provide for his own … he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). And Proverbs 13:22 claims that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” But how can we give all our treasure to God and others and still have an inheritance left for our family.

SOLUTION: The Bible does not command us to give away all our money to God and others. The OT laid down the tithe as the minimum all should give (cf. Mal. 3:8), and proportionally blessed those who brought more offerings (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:14–15). In addition to this, we should help those in need, especially our own family and other believers (1 Tim. 5:8).

Jesus in no way intended that we should give away all that we possess. His advice to the rich young ruler to do so was a special case, since money had become an idol to this man (see Luke 18:22). Jesus encouraged prudence and economy and forbade making “treasures” our chief good. He encouraged us not to be unduly “anxious” about our earthly provisions (Matt. 6:25) nor to selfishly hoard treasures for ourselves on earth (Matt. 6:19–20). But in no way did He say we should not invest our money or plan for the future. Indeed, He gave parables about investing our treasures (Matt. 25:14ff) and about counting the cost before building a tower (Luke 14:28).

Neither is there any indication that the early believers ever took Jesus’ statement (to give to those who ask) to the extreme of giving away everything they possessed. In spite of some misunderstood verses to the contrary (see comments on Acts 2:44–45), the early church did not practice any abiding form of communism or socialism. Most of them apparently owned their own homes and/or other property. Otherwise, how could they have fulfilled the command to provide for their own and to leave an inheritance to their families? The prudent believer gives of his or her possessions first to God (see Matt. 6:19, 33), then for family and other believers (1 Tim. 5:8), and then, as much as is possible, to help the poor (Gal. 2:10).

- N. L. Geisler & T. A. Howe [ref]

he has denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8)
"His act of impiety belies (Titus 1:16) his claim to the faith (Revelation 2:13)." [ref] Rather than abolishing natural duties, faith actually perfects and strengthens them. [ref] Faith-filled love prompts us to go the extra mile. A believer who is unwilling to go even the mandatory first mile is lacking in such love. [ref]

Denying the faith is a hallmark of the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:6; 4:1; 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:18; 3:5; Titus 1:16). "For both the widow and the family of the widow, these instructions express the need to keep one's confession of the faith and one's conduct in harmony. In contrast to the false teaching that had been circulating, spirituality was to have practical, respectable and observable results." [ref]

worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)
Unbelievers do not claim to be pious [ref], and yet "[e]ven an unbeliever will perform these duties from natural promptings" [ref] (cf. Romans 2:14–15). This despite the fact that, unlike every true Christian, they do not have the Scripture's commands, Jesus' example, and the Holy Spirit's empowerment. [ref]

"We may hence learn that it is possible to deny the faith by conduct as well as by words; and that a neglect of doing our duty is as real a denial of Christianity as it would be openly to renounce it." [ref] Just as a professing Christian who lives his everyday life as though there is no God is a practical atheist, a professing Christian who does not care for his own family is a practical pagan. Worse, actually, since even pagans will care for their own family.

QuoteWorthy: A Wretched Fraud
A religious profession which falls below the standard of duty recognised by the world is a wretched fraud. - E. K. Simpson [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:9 - The Honorable Widow (vv. 5, 9-10)

put on the list (1 Timothy 5:9)
This expression "was often used of official registrations (e.g., for troops)." [ref]

"This list was an official enrollment, apparently with a formal pledge to continue as a widow and serve the Lord in that way (cf. 1 Timothy 5:12)." [ref] While not all commentators agree, there is ample reason for believing this refers to "a smaller group of older women among the supported widows who were qualified for special service." [ref] [ref]

Because widows were the group within the Church with the most obvious and urgent need, their care "became an important priority in the NT Church (Acts 6:1). Dorcas is an example of an individual who devoted herself to this type of ministry (Acts 9:39). By the time that the Pastoral Epistles were written an official order of widows had been established, which was supported by the Church and probably assigned a particular ministry in the Church (1 Tim. 5:3–16)." [ref] It seems that the order of widows' duties included: "giving good counsel to the younger women, praying and fasting, visiting the sick, preparing women for baptism, taking them to communion, and giving guidance and direction to widows and orphans who were supported by the church." [ref]

not less than sixty years old (1 Timothy 5:9)
"Paul may be appealing to current 'actuarial tables' for defining retirement age beyond which women could not be expected either to remarry or do hard work -- sixty years old." [ref] Sixty was an age "which the ancient world also considered to be specially suited for concentration on the spiritual life." [ref]

(having been) the wife of one man (1 Timothy 5:9)
This can mean either "a woman married only once" or "was devoted solely to her husband." [ref] The main idea is faithfulness: "while married she had been faithful to her one husband." [ref] [ref] That said, it is true that a woman who married, was widowed, and remained unmarried would possess a certain dignity not possible for a widow who remarried; her unmarried state provided "additional evidence of marital fidelity to her now deceased husband and of devotion to the Lord." [ref] [ref

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1 TIMOTHY 5:10 - The Honorable Widow (vv. 5, 9-10)

good works ... if ... if ... (1 Timothy 5:10)
This "includes good deeds of all kinds, and not merely special works of beneficence." [ref] The specific items listed are examples of these good works [ref] [ref], which "span the realms of home, church, and community." [ref] "Such an experience of humble, unselfish and costly service would qualify a registered widow to undertake similar ministries as an accredited church worker. It would also necessitate a decision to remain unmarried, indeed to take a ‘pledge’ to this effect, so as to be fully available for service." [ref]

It was true then, and remains so now, that "[n]othing discredits a church like unworthy office-bearers; and nothing is so good an advertisement for it as an office-bearer who has taken his Christianity into the activity of daily living." [ref]

brought up children (1 Timothy 5:10)
Doubtless this refers to her own children but could also include the idea of caring for abandoned children. [ref] "The proof of the life-changing power of the gospel in the home was to be seen in exemplary marriages and responsible child care. Beyond meeting basic physical and emotional needs, Christian parenting means also training children in the faith (Deut 6:7; Eph 6:4)." [ref]

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CHILD EXPOSURE

In an age when the marriage bond was very lax and men and women changed their partners with bewildering rapidity, children were regarded as a misfortune. This was the great age of child exposure. When a child was born, he was brought and laid before his father's feet. If the father stooped and lifted him, that meant that he acknowledged him and was prepared to accept responsibility for his upbringing. If the father turned and walked away, the child was quite literally thrown out, like an unwanted piece of rubbish. It often happened that such unwanted children were collected by unscrupulous people and, if girls, brought up to stock the public brothels, and, if boys, trained to be slaves or gladiators for the public games. It would be a Christian duty to rescue such children from death and worse than death, and to bring them up in a Christian home.

- William Barclay [ref]

shown hospitality to strangers (1 Timothy 5:10)
Hospitality was "a highly regarded practice in the ancient world. Hospitality's warmth and sharing made it essential to the Christian mission and to church unity (Rom 12:13; 1 Pet 4:9). It also met urgent needs and required sacrificial sharing. Help of this sort among Christians is uppermost in Paul's mind, but given the notorious condition of inns in that day, it is easy to see how strategic an open home might have been for the spread of the gospel as well." [ref]

washed the saints' feet (1 Timothy 5:10)
This is given as "[p]roof of her hospitality, not of its being a church ordinance." [ref] Foot washing was "[a] mark of Oriental hospitality bestowed on the stranger arriving from a journey, and therefore closely associated with lodged strangers." [ref] It is also likely that Paul is using this phrase in a figurative way to denote humble service. [ref] [ref] [ref]

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HUMILITY

We need an honest appraisal of ourselves; or as Paul says, we ought “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think” (Rom 12:3). The Phillips translation of this verse makes the point even clearer: “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself, or your importance.”

Spiritual Pride
The biggest danger to being used by God is spiritual pride. When God begins to use us, we might get very narrow in our focus and see ourselves as “God’s gift to the world.” We’re not. We, among many others, are God’s gift to the body of Christ.

In Acts 3, Peter and John encountered a crucial crossroads in their ministries. Peter commanded a lame beggar, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and the man was instantly healed. At that point, all of the attention in the temple turned toward these two servants of God. They could have used this attention for their personal advantage, but they didn’t; instead, Peter said, “Men of Israel, why do you look so intently on us, as though we by our own power or godliness made this man walk?”

They gave God all of the glory. That is integrity. That is humility. And it takes an honest evaluation. As God begins to use us, we need to be careful that we don’t think, “You know, I’m really something special.”

His Instruments
When we eat great dessert, we don’t praise the bowl it came in. Or if a skilled surgeon saves the life of someone we love, we don’t praise his scalpel. The same is true of us as Christians: we shouldn’t praise ourselves -- the mere instrument -- but the one who uses the instrument, God. Pride is a spiritual danger because God does the work, but we love to take the credit. Yet when God uses people who end up thinking more highly of themselves than they ought, He may quickly decide to put them on the shelf and find others who will practice humility and say, “Who am I?”

I love what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 4:7: “What do you have that you didn’t receive from God? And if you received it, why do you go around boasting as if it’s of yourself?” I’m reminded of these words when someone compliments me on a sermon. And I’m even more humbled when I recall that God spoke through a donkey in Num 22. He can use anybody. We’re all just His instruments.

- Skip Heitzig [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:11 - Habits to Avoid (vv. 11-13, 15)

refuse (to put) younger widows (on the list) (1 Timothy 5:11)
Besides having other ambitions, the younger widows would lack the necessary experience [ref] and thus need to be trained. That training would be a terrible waste of time and resources should the younger widow decide to remarry. [ref]

for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ (1 Timothy 5:11)
The idea here is that "their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ" (NLT). It is a fact of life that younger people are plagued by physical desires, "and the strength of these desires often makes (re)marriage a wise course." [ref]

More literally, Paul's thought here is: "sensual impulses that alienate them from Christ." [ref] And so it may well be that remarriage "was considered a hasty alternative to genuine repentance for immoral behavior" and/or these young widows "were seeking to marry unbelievers (compare 1 Cor 7:39)." [ref] (see below under DISREGARDING CHRIST)

It is also possible that "widowhood" has "a wider application than actual bereavement; it may mean separation from a husband. For OT background, see II Sam 20:3 and Isa 54:4-6. Israel is a rejected, adulterous wife and widow because of separation, not because of the death of the husband. Hence these women, who are further described as having set aside their first pledge (faith, promise, I Tim 5:12) and as having turned aside to Satan (v. 15) may be unfaithful wives who have been divorced. Remarriage under conditions of separation for unfaithfulness would bring the condemnation of the Lord (Lk 16:18)." [ref]

they want to get married (1 Timothy 5:11)
The young widows "could not be depended on with certainty, but they might be expected again to enter into the married relation."  [ref

The meaning here is that "they are bent on marrying, or determined to marry." [ref] Paul encouraged younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). The problem is that young widows on the list would be tempted to renege on their pledge to Christ and the church in order to remarry.

DISREGARDING CHRIST.One line of interpretation understands this section of Paul's letter (1 Timothy 5:9-15) to be dealing with young widows who abandon the Christian faith in order to marry a non-believer/pagan. [ref] [ref] [ref] [ref] "Because of their youthfulness they are often inexperienced also regarding the Christian faith" [ref], and thus quickly renounce it. Note: Even if this is not Paul's main thought, there is much to be gained from examining this particular perspective.

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1 TIMOTHY 5:12 - Habits to Avoid (vv. 11-13, 15)

thus incurring condemnation (1 Timothy 5:12)
They "carry about with them in their new, married life a condemnation, a continuous reproach." [ref] "Public departure from a commitment to the order of widows could bring about scandal; the 'condemnation' (NASB, NRSV) is that of outsiders, as in [1 Timothy 3:6–7]." [ref]

their previous pledge (1 Timothy 5:12)
A widow who joined the official church order of widows took a pledge not to marry, choosing instead to devote herself exclusively to Christ and the Church. [ref] [ref] [ref] "Vows of this kind were not required nor demanded, but when made, they were considered as binding as marriage itself." [ref]

DISREGARDING CHRIST.

 
These young widows find themselves to be their own masters and are restrained only by Christ. They are widows who do not have little children to burden them. They become overbearing against Christ, cast off his restraint, and do as they please. This is the way in which they want to enter into marriage anew. Paul even tells us more: “having judgment (resting on them) because they did set aside the first faith.” Their acting high and mighty against Christ = their setting aside their first faith. Their Christian faith no longer holds them; they have put it away as being something that interferes with their new freedom and desire. The thought is not that Christ and this faith forbid their marrying, for how could v. 14 then follow? Nor, on the other hand, that they become strumpets or harlots. Paul does not say this, and the usual facts do not say it. These widows are ready to enter into a pagan marriage without Christ, without their first faith; they become pagans again in order to suit a pagan husband. Plenty of cases such as that occur to this day. [ref] (also see: [ref] [ref])
 

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1 TIMOTHY 5:13 - Habits to Avoid (vv. 11-13, 15)

"The picture here describes women busy accomplishing little good and much that is destructive. While this may sound like an extremely negative comment about these women, we ought to note the context and take into account that anyone with too much free time can often get into trouble. Paul's answer was adamant: If they will not give themselves to ministry, then the next best choice is marriage." [ref]

they also learn (to be) idle, as they go around from house to house (1 Timothy 5:13)
"Too much time with not enough to do is dangerous for anyone except those too old to get into trouble." [ref]

The phrase "as they go around from house to house" (Greek perierchomai) may be understood as

  • temporal: "while going around from house to house, they learn to be idle"
  • instrumental: "by going around from house to house, they learn to be idle"
  • or result: "they learn to be idle, with the result that they go around from house to house" [ref]

That said, it is safe to assume that the official work of the order of widows necessitated them visting other ladies in their homes. [ref] The problem is that the younger widows were sorely tempted to turn a business call into a social call and begin gossiping, etc.

gossips (1 Timothy 5:13)
"They would learn all the news; become acquainted with the secrets of families, and of course indulge in much idle and improper conversation."  [ref

busybodies (1 Timothy 5:13)
To be a busybody is to be "busy about trifles to the neglect of important matters." [ref] "Persons who have nothing to do of their own, commonly find employment by interesting themselves in the affairs of their neighbors. No one likes to be wholly idle, and if anyone is not found doing what he ought to do, he will commonly be found engaged in doing what he ought not." [ref]

talking about things not proper (to mention) (1 Timothy 5:13)
"Revealing the concerns of their neighbors; disclosing secrets; magnifying trifles, so as to exalt themselves into importance, as if they were entrusted with the secrets of others; inventing stories and tales of gossip, that they may magnify and maintain their own consequence in the community. No persons are commonly more dangerous to the peace of a neighborhood than those who have nothing to do." [ref]

This is another characteristic of the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:6; 4:7, 6:20), who "were particularly effective in the homes of believers (2 Tim 3:6; Tit 1:11)." [ref] Apparently some of the younger widows had come under their influence. [ref]

DISREGARDING CHRIST. "'Moreover, at the same time also' adds further evidence that, after their husbands are dead, the restraint also of Christ is removed for these foolish widows." [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:14 - A Lifestyle to Pursue

get married, bear children, keep house (1 Timothy 5:14)
These three phrases "describe the responsible and socially normative role of the homemaker, which the apostle elsewhere endorses (2:11-15; Eph 5:22-23; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; compare also 1 Pet 3:1-7)." [ref]

Here Paul is not giving "an absolute and universal command, for it might not always be at the option of the widow to marry again, and it cannot be doubted that there may be cases where it would be unadvisable. But he speaks of this as a general rule. It is better for such persons to have domestic concerns that require their attention, than it is to be exposed to the evils of an idle life."  [ref

"The full life is always the safe life, and the empty life is always the life in peril. So the advice is that these younger women should marry and engage upon the greatest task of all, rearing a family and making a home." [ref]

"Keep house" literally means to rule the household and emphasizes the mother's authority. [ref] "Note that the wife is here put as ruler of the household, proper recognition of her influence." [ref] "The home is the domain where a married woman fulfills herself in God’s design." [ref]

Commenting on the state of affairs at the time of Paul's writing, one commentator notes: "The popular standards for a young woman, stressed in writings of philosophers and moralists, were chastity, modesty, quietness, submission and obedience to her husband, and devotion to domestic duties, including the rearing of young children. In contrast to the ideal wife of Proverbs 31, the ideal wife of Greek society was socially retiring and restricted herself mainly to the domestic sphere, the only place where she had authority. 'Keep house' (NASB) is better translated 'manage their homes' (NIV); although subordinate to her husband, the Greek wife otherwise 'ruled' her home. Paul here upholds some societal values for the sake of the gospel’s witness." [ref]

the enemy (1 Timothy 5:14)
This could refer to Satan, a human enemy who is critical of the Church, or both.

"It is because the wanton behavior of [1 Timothy 5:11] and the foolish talk of [1 Timothy 5:13] occur where the church meets with the world that the outside critic is a concern. It is doubly of concern if this disrespectful behavior be seen as financially subsidized by the church." [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:15 - Habits to Avoid (vv. 11-13, 15)

turned aside to follow Satan (1 Timothy 5:15)
This may refer to the items of misconduct noted above in 1 Timothy 5:13. In these matters they had chosen to follow "the great Tempter, rather than the Lord Jesus."  [ref] Or it could be that Paul is referring to the fact that "[s]ome of the young widows had given up their commitment to serve Christ, perhaps either by following false teachers and spreading their false doctrine or by marrying unbelievers and bringing disgrace upon the church." [ref]

DISREGARDING CHRIST.

"Paul is not speaking theoretically or abstractly but on the basis of sad experience: 'For already some did turn off (we should use the perfect tense) after Satan,' whose very name signifies 'the adversary.' The fact that this means casting off Christ and his spiritual restraint, rejecting the first faith (1 Timothy 5:11, 12), is beyond question. One way of doing this deadly thing is mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:6; other ways in 1 Timothy 5:11–13. ... 'Satan' is placed in opposition to 'Christ' in 1 Timothy 5:11 ... all restraint of Christ is willfully cast off in order to gain new liberty, which means following Satan in a liberty that is slavery." [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 5:16 - Christian Women and Widowed Relatives

If any woman who is a believer has (dependent) widows (1 Timothy 5:16)

"Any woman believer, whose husband is not a believer, and also any woman believer, who is a widow that has means or who was never married and has means, is to aid any widow, old or young, of her own relationship, who may be left destitute, with no one else able or willing to aid her. ... How the relief is to be extended need not be said, for a number of obvious ways at once suggest themselves: give a lone widow a home; give her work; give her financial support -- the cases may differ in detail. Thus one widow with means may help another widow; or a married or a single woman with means may do the same for a widow." [ref]

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Two lasting principles of social welfare seem to emerge from these apostolic instructions. The first is the principle of discrimination. There was to be no general handout to all widows, irrespective of their circumstances. Widowhood was not in itself a qualification for support by the church. No, the church’s welfare provisions are to be limited to those in genuine need. If there are any alternative means of support, they should be used. In particular, the first call is on the widow’s family. All of us must accept responsibility for our own relatives. The church’s sense of social responsibility is not to encourage irresponsibility in others. And government welfare programmes should supplement but not replace either individual or family obligations.

Secondly, there is the principle of dignity. It is very interesting to note the two distinct categories of widow Paul mentions, the one needing support and the other offering service. Although we have considered them separately, they must have overlapped. Indeed ideally, health and strength permitting, the supported and the serving widows should be the same people. Widows (together with others in similar circumstances like single mothers, abused and divorced women) should have the opportunity both to receive according to their need and to give according to their ability, that is, both to be served and to serve. I was impressed some years ago to see this principle operating in the ‘Refugee Industries’ of Zerka in Jordan. The refugees not only received food, clothing and shelter, but also found self-respect through contributing their own skills to a variety of cottage industries. Christian relief should never demean its beneficiaries, but rather increase their sense of dignity.

- John Stott [ref]


[1 Timothy 5:16] which addresses a very specific situation, springs from a truth about God that compels us to ask some very penetrating questions regarding the focus of our compassion today: God is committed to helping those who cannot help themselves. As already pointed out, the Old Testament announces clearly God's special concern for widows, alongside of whom are often named the fatherless. The directions of Jesus' ministry developed the theme of God's compassion with even greater clarity to encompass the poor, the sick, the outcasts of society, the disfranchised, the marginalized. It was to these that Jesus reached out. The need for the church to minister to widows and the accompanying concern for the church's testimony in the world evident in 5:1-16 are an application of God's care for those unable to care for themselves.

Widows presented that church at that time with a specific need, and in our churches this same basic need is common. But our technological age is creating some problems (or at least raising them to proportions never before known) that belong to this category. What about our poor -- the homeless, the jobless? What about our disfranchised -- the single mothers, the elderly, the convicts and ex-convicts, the divorced? While the questions come easier than the answers, I think we will all agree that the church is to be God's channel of compassion as he seeks to include the excluded. Paul's treatment suggests that there is far more involved than simply handing out money. The pattern presented here is a carefully structured ministry to the whole person which encourages and facilitates godliness and a productive life while it also guards against misuse and abuse that might endanger the church's witness. It remains for us to implement this teaching creatively in our particular situations.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

HELPING WIDOWS

Churches can offer very practical help to those without a mate. Help usually comes when people are informed. Church leaders should ask about the specific needs of members of the congregation who are living alone.

  • Churches should help grieving members when they lose a loved one immediately and with long-term recovery.
  • Churches can encourage and assist in the writing of wills.
  • Churches can help widows plan and manage their money so that it goes further by offering counseling or classes on financial planning. Widows should be protected from being exploited by unscrupulous investment and insurance salespeople.
  • Churches can offer training, support, and prayer to family members who care for the aged. Many people are uninformed of the steps and costs involved in various phases of care. Information on nursing homes, in-home nursing or hospice care, estate settling, etc., can all be offered through the church.
  • Churches should develop tactful ways to call on and encourage the children of Christian widows to share in their responsibilities. Distant relatives may need to be contacted. Coordination and objectivity can sometimes be offered by church members who care but are not directly involved in the family situation.
  • Teaching on the care and the usefulness of the elderly should be a regular part of the ministry of the church.

In caring for widows, the church that fails to plan actually plans to fail. The biblical instructions regarding these responsibilities should be common knowledge among the members of a church. In many cases, the church should have specific programs to prepare people for the needs created by the aging and the death of spouses. When a church does not prepare for the inevitable, it loses opportunities for effective ministry.

How does your church respond to the immediate needs of families when a loved one dies? What specific programs or plans are in place to respond to long-term needs of widows and others left without support? How specific are your own family plans regarding the care of parents and grandparents?

Three out of four wives today eventually are widowed, and many of the older women in our churches have lost their husbands. In what ways does your church provide an avenue of service for these women? Could you help match their gifts and abilities with your church's needs? The church should identify and facilitate roles of service for these women. Caring for each other, praying for others, or volunteering for the many activities in the church can provide a sense of purpose for women at this place in life. Often their maturity and wisdom can be of great service in the church.Three out of four wives today eventually are widowed, and many of the older women in our churches have lost their husbands. In what ways does your church provide an avenue of service for these women? Could you help match their gifts and abilities with your church's needs? The church should identify and facilitate roles of service for these women. Caring for each other, praying for others, or volunteering for the many activities in the church can provide a sense of purpose for women at this place in life. Often their maturity and wisdom can be of great service in the church.

- Life Application Bible Commentary: New Testament [ref]

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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe