1 Timothy 5

This devotional is written by Max Somerset.

1 Timothy 5

Widows, elders and slaves
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.

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’ 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.

22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden for ever.

Reflection

Tradition has it that Timothy was about 16 years old when he and his mother converted to Christianity.  Presumably this happened when Paul visited their home at Lystra, now part of present day Turkey. Paul had a close bond with Timothy as Paul addressed him as “My Son Timothy” three times in the New Testament. His Grandmother Lois had come to faith and here we see faith working out down through the generations. When Timothy was about 21, he and Silas accompanied Paul on his second tour of Asia Minor. Paul mentored Timothy for 16 years and later left him with the Church in Ephesus. It was during his time of service that Timothy received the two letters, which bear his name. These letters are specifically addressed to Timothy as opposed to the whole church and therefore are more personal, perhaps even private in nature but the Holy Spirit saw fit to disclose them so that we could see  the inner workings of leadership responsibilities and be equipped to deal with the merry-go-round of Church Life.

Paul has a few harsh things to say to Timothy that many a Church leader would shrink from saying publically. I am not sure Paul would have been so blunt if the letter wasn’t so personal but sometimes you need to spell things out in black and white to your nearest and dearest and hope that they then can be trusted to be a little diplomatic in the way they deal with it. Paul begins by telling Timothy not to rebuke (literally in the Greek ‘to strike at’) an older person in line with Leviticus 19v32 “You shall rise before the grey headed and honour the presence of an older man..”  You might be younger and cleverer than an older man, in the words of the Late Great Jazz singer, Louis Armstrong “I see baby’s born I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know…” technological advances can leave the elderly feeling quite antiquated and out of touch but young people, don’t fool yourself, there is no substitute for the school of hard knocks and life experience. You might rebuke an older person but it’s not diplomatic or respectful and the older person may not receive it therefore your communication with that person proves utterly ineffective and unfruitful. What good is that?

When I was a younger man and a deacon in a Baptist church, I was very opinionated and quite Judgmental. The trouble was, I wasn’t aware of how little I knew and I was only aware of the little I knew. For example I remember laying into a Christian brother for dating a non-Christian. My response to his situation was utterly unhelpful but made me feel good about how straight down the line I was. It was inconceivable to imagine how he could do such a thing, until many years later, after the two co-pastors fell out and the church split, I ended up doing the same thing. The older me would love to sit the younger me down and teach him a few life lessons prior to giving advice to others but alas, youth is wasted on the young.

If you want results in your communication, there are ways to go about things that get results and there are ways to go about things that just cause more harm than good. It’s not what you know; it’s having the wisdom to know how to act on what you know. For example, Paul tells Timothy some Jaw dropping things about the state of certain people in his congregation. He confides that the young Widow who has made a pledge in the church and after the mourning period wants to bounce back; remarry and ‘live in pleasure’ whilst still receiving financial help from the church for her pledge, is ‘dead while she lives.’ (v6) he goes on to confide that those who do not provide for their relatives and especially their immediate household are ‘worse than an unbeliever’ (v8). Timothy, pastoring the Church in Ephesus, armed with this information, would be expected to “speak the truth in Love’ (Ephesians 4:15) in order to bring about restoration. James tells us “He who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5v20). The aim is restoration, fruitfulness and wiping away the sins of the past, not finger pointing. Timothy was entrusted with such responsibilities. So, when someone tells you something that makes your Jaw drop, remember, it’s not what you know; it’s what you do with what you know. In an age of keyboard warriors and opinions, we would do well to remember the Wisdom of Solomon when he says “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth so let your words be few” (Ecc 5:2)

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