Friday, January 08, 2010

1 Timothy 5:3-8

V3-8 – 3Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4But 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. 5The 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. 6But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

V3-16 offer a discussion of widowhood, and the problems Ephesus was facing in this regard. Apparently young widows were causing problems, affected by the false teachers. Paul begins v3 with a command to honor – or care for (“give proper recognition”) – the needy (destitute) widows in the congregation. He gives extended instructions for widows with family members who can care for them; family members honoring each other is pleasing to God (v4). We find in v4 the implication that grown children are to care for their elderly parents, and the command for children to honor their father and mother comes to mind (Ephesians 6:1-2).

One commentator says, “Paul is perfectly aware of the phenomenon of children who refuse to take responsibility for caring for their parents. You remember the old Dutch proverb: ‘It seems easier for one poor father to rear ten children than for ten rich children to care for one poor father.’ Paul knew this reality even two thousand years ago, before the days of Medicare and Medicaid and modern healthcare and nursing homes, and all the problems that have come with extended life expectancy. Paul knew that problem of families refusing to take responsibility for the care of their own family members, and Paul has some very strong words for those who refuse to do so” (v8).

In v5, we recognize the truly needy widow as one who has and continues to live alone, has and continues to live in godliness (as opposed to living for pleasure – v6), and has and continues to put her hope in God through prayer. For these widows, such as Anna in Luke 2:37 and maybe Dorcas in Acts 9:36, the church must be God’s hands in response to her prayers. Paul speaks in v6 of widows who live for pleasure; this may refer to their turning to prostitution to make a living or to their being sexually exploited by the false teachers. In saying they are spiritually dead, though living in the flesh, Paul is being quite stern with them, effectively accusing them not only of being spiritually killed by the false teachers but also of spiritually killing others by their lifestyles.

In v7-8, Paul again issues strict military commands for everyone in the Ephesian congregation to “provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family.” Being “open to blame” echoes Jesus’ teaching in Mark 7:9-13. As Christians, we must practice what we preach. Our orthodoxy must be seen in our orthopraxy; otherwise, we are no better than these spiritually dead young widows. In fact, Paul says in v8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives (orthopraxy in response to orthodoxy)…he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” In other words, how can we claim to represent Christ to the world if we don’t take care of our own?

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