Monday, January 11, 2010

1 Timothy 5:9-16

V9-16 – 9No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, [or has had but one husband] 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 11As 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. 12Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 14So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 16If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

Paul continues his instructions regarding widows in this passage. This obviously was a major issue in Timothy’s congregation. Widows over 60 (a round number) are to be considered as care-worthy for the church. (An alternate view of this list is that widows over 60 were to be approved to serve others.) Younger widows, presumably, were still plausibly eligible for remarriage, which would have been discouraged if the church took over the responsibility of caring for them. (And regarding the alternate view, younger widows should not devote themselves to full time service on behalf of the church, because they could conceivably remarry and focus on their new family.) Paul also notes in v10 that these elderly widows had done many good things in their lives, making them especially eligible to receive care from the church (or care for others on behalf of the church, if the alternate view is preferred). Their good reputation over their many years of familial service qualifies them to be served by the church and/or to serve the church continually as servants (deaconesses).

On the other hand, the younger widows were living “sensually,” and therefore selfishly. They exhibited, in general, a desire to marry, whereas the older widows had no interest in marriage; their devotion was to Christ. The young widows, perhaps in their efforts to serve the Body of Christ, were literally talking nonsense (v13), perhaps even helping to spread the message of the false teachers, and this serves as Paul’s harsh rebuke of them. But then Paul also says “they get into the habit of being idle.” Perhaps they had been made helpers, but they weren’t helping much; instead, in their laziness, they were causing division. It would be better for them to serve the Body of Christ by getting married (v14) and taking care of their own families. It was too late for some of the young widows who had been deceived by the false teachers (v15). Paul equates their deception at the hands of false teachers to being deceived by Satan himself.

So to summarize, we have the command to honor the widows who were truly widows as well as the rebuke, or correction, of those widows who were not living rightly and pursuing godliness. We see the same pattern in the next passage regarding elders.

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