One of the biggest challenges in pastoral work is the diversity of believers in the church, which consists of males and females, young and old, rich and poor, strong and weak in faith, married, singles or widows, and believers from diverse racial, cultural, educational and social backgrounds. Though diverse, the church is one body and the challenge lies in caring for different groups in different manners while manifesting the same fairness and upholding the same Christian principles. Timothy, being a young preacher and pastor, may have lacked experience in handling such diversity within the church. Hence, Paul pens this passage to provide him some guidelines for handling various groups of believers within the church.
Did You Know...?
- “Widows” (5:3): “Widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient societies because no pensions, government assistance, life insurance, or the like were available to them.” [ref]
- “Taken into the number” (5:9): “The church in Ephesus seems to have maintained a list of widows supported by the church. While there is no evidence of an order of widows comparable to that of the overseers, it appears that those on the list were expected to devote themselves to prayer (v.5) and good deeds (v.10).” [ref]
- “Washed the saints’ feet” (5:10): “This was an important courtesy whenever guests entered a house. So this function belonged to that culture.” [ref]
- “Grow wanton” (5:11): “The Greek term suggests a young animal strenuously contending against its yoke.” [ref]
- The Older and the Younger (5:1-2)
- Widows (5:3-16)
- Elders (5:17-25)
- Bondservants (6:1-2)
What attitude does Paul advise Timothy to have towards the older and younger groups of believers?Hide Answer
Exhort older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers, younger women as sisters.
What principles can we learn from these instructions?Hide Answer
These instructions teach us to regard all believers like members of our own family, treating the elders with respect and the younger with love out of a pure heart (cf. 1:5)
What issue or problem is Paul addressing here?Hide Answer
The instructions in this paragraph pertain to the church’s responsibility of providing for the widows. It appears that some widows and families have abused the church’s practice of giving support to widows. Certain families who are capable of supporting their widow may have refused to do so but expect the church to provide the support (8,16). Some young widows, relying on the church’s generous support, may have forsaken their vow to Christ and become idle gossips and busybodies (11-13).
What solution does Paul give?Hide Answer
Paul makes a clear distinction between widows “who are really widows” (3) and the other widows. True widows are to be honored (3) and provided for by the church (cf. Jas 1:27). Widows with children or grandchildren ought to be provided for by their families (5:4, 8). Young widows and widows who live in pleasure do not qualify for church support.
Identifying who are eligible for support allows the church to support true widows who have a genuine need. It also ensures that those who are not true widows would not become a burden to the church.
Who are the true widows whom the church should provide for?Hide Answer
1. Those who are left alone, that is, with no one to rely on, no children or grandchildren (5).
2. Those who trust in God and continue in supplications and prayers night and day instead of living a life of indulgence and pleasure (5-6)
3. Those above sixty years old and who had been the wife of one man (9)
4. Those well respected for good works, that is, if they have brought up children, lodged strangers, washed the feet of saints, relieved the afflicted, and diligently followed every good work (10)
Cite an example in the Bible of a true widow who devoted her life to serving God.Hide Answer
Anna the prophetess (Lk 2:36-38). She did not depart from the temple and served God with fasting and prayer night and day.
What are Paul’s comments and instructions about the following groups of widows? a. The widow who lives in pleasure; b. Young widows:Hide Answer
a. The widow who lives in pleasure:
She is dead while she lives. In other words, she has lost her fervor to serve the Lord and has become useless in God’s eyes (cf. Rev 3:1-3).
b. Young widows:
Some of them had made a commitment to remain single and devote their lives to Christ but would later change their minds and desired to marry. Some learned to be idle, wandering from house to house as busybodies and gossips (11-13). Worse still, some had already turned aside after Satan (15).
To prevent falling into such decadence, young widows are encouraged to marry, bear children, and manage the house so as to not give opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
How does Paul describe believers who do not provide for their own household?Hide Answer
They have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers (8).
Based on the instructions of this paragraph, what principles can the church today apply when providing for believers in need?Hide Answer
1. Whenever possible, the family of the needy ought to provide for them. If they do not have families or if their families are unable to provide for them, then the church may take up the responsibility.
2. The church should take into consideration whether the needy have godly conduct and refuse those who would become idle and indulgent as a result of the church’s support.
What type of elders is worthy of double honor?Hide Answer
Those who rule well, especially those who labor in word and doctrine (17). In other words, they administer the church well and teach and uphold the truth (cf. 3:2,9). “Double honor” may possibly mean giving ample living allowance as well as paying the highest respect.
How is verse 18 relevant to this context of attributing honor to elders? What other related teachings can we learn?Hide Answer
This verse teaches that we must render to others what is due them. That is, a laborer is worthy of his wages, just as an ox needs to eat while working (treading the grain). In the same way, good elders who serve diligently are worthy of double honor. If they serve on a full-time basis, the church ought to provide for their livelihood. This principle is also applicable to all full-time workers who have dedicated their time to serve God. They are also worthy of honor and living allowance rendered by the church.
What caution must be exercised before receiving accusations against elders?Hide Answer
Only if there are two or three witnesses can an accusation be brought against an elder (19). Following this guideline would minimize false accusations and defamatory charges against elders.
How should the church handle those who are sinning? Why?Hide Answer
They are to be rebuked in the presence of all (20). This serves to warn those who are sinning and teaches others not to fall to sin.
What general principle does Paul charge Timothy to adhere to while exercising judgment (21)?Hide Answer
Timothy needs to fulfill his duties without prejudice or partiality (21). This is an important reminder because it is easy to make unfair judgments based on personal preference and prejudice. In caring for the flock of God, we have to ensure fairness and consistency, just as God Himself is without partiality (Rom 2:11)
What does Paul caution Timothy against in regards to the laying on of hands? Why?Hide Answer
Paul reminds Timothy not to lay hands on anyone hastily (5:22). “Laying on of hands” may mean either ordination or blessing in prayer. Before selecting a church worker or vindicating the accused, we must thoroughly examine the person in question, lest we share the sins of someone who is guilty.
How does this instruction relate to the truths of 24-25?Hide Answer
It is not wise to make hasty judgments because doing so may result in mistakes. When the sins or the good works of a person are not immediately evident, it may take time for the truth to be revealed. Since the works of a person, whether good or bad, cannot be hidden forever, it would be prudent to handle such matters with patience and care while letting the truth surface with time.
How should believing bondservants behave towards their masters?Hide Answer
Honor them (1). Serve them (2).
How can God’s name and doctrine be affected by our attitude on our jobs?