This message was presented on May 25, 2014 as part of the 1 Timothy series.
The vision of our church is Connect, Equip and Multiply. We connect together to worship God, Equip together in grace to become more like Jesus and multiply together with the gospel to reach the world. We have several values also. There are two foundational values. First, Jesus Christ is Lord and second, God’s Word is all sufficient. Upon these two values are five pillar values: Meaningful Worship, Creative Outreach, Caring Relationships, Transforming Discipleship and Faithful Stewardship. The message today will focus on the middle pillar – Caring Relationships. How do you show caring relationships?
Paul said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10) Caring validates the true gospel message. What if there was no welfare, social security or Medicare. What would a widow do? Consider Julie, who is 44 teaches 3rd grade Sunday School, and has two children of her own. She works at St. Francis as a nurse. Her husband, Tom, died of cancer last month and now she is a widow and can’t make the mortgage payment. Several in church said, she should be put on the widow’s list and the church support her. The leadership said, “No.” Geraldine is 65 and has been attending church for 30 years. Her husband Ronald died in an auto accident two months ago. She has many friends who said she should be on the widow’s list. The leadership said, “No.” Then there was Myrtle, who was 88 and has been singing in the choir for 20 years and she has a lot of friends. Her husband, Jack. died in a hunting accident last winter and her friends said she should be put on the list. The leadership said, “No, we cannot put her on the widow’s list.” There were many behind the scenes “discussions” and people were pretty upset these ladies were not included. Why were they not included?
Caring for others requires discernment, so the right people receive care and those who should work or be helped by their families are exhorted to get off the couch and care for their family. I’ll give the explanation at the end of the message. How do you show “caring relationships,” especially to widows?
1) Provide for Jesus’ family 5:7-8
7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. (1 Tim. 5:7 NKJ)
The word for “command” means “direct the message alongside” of people so they understand and seek to be blameless. The word “blameless” means to be righteous, pure, or holy. Taking care of family is part of holiness. In Timothy’s church, Paul knew there were widows who lived for pleasure rather than service. Then Paul wrote,
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. (1 Tim. 5:8 NKJ)
Paul’s first statement states as a fact that there are those who do “not provide for his own.” His “own” refers to any relatives and considering 1 Timothy 5:16, it is not just negligent fathers, but children and grandchildren who can care for family. In fact, some are in their own physical blood family. When someone does not, he shows that he has “denied the faith” and he is “worse than an unbeliever.” He has denied what he has believed.
How can a believer be worse than an unbeliever? Many unbelievers took care of their relatives. He is a believer, but doesn’t live that way. When a believer is in Christ and he chooses to live like the unbeliever, after the blessing of being in God’s family, he is described as being worse than an unbeliever. Peter says the “latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” (2 Pet. 2:20 NKJ)
How do you show caring relationships, especially to widows? Provide for them, because they are in Jesus’ family.
2) Provide care for widows to honor Jesus 5:9-10
The point is not to just provide for widows so they are “provided” for, but to do it to honor Jesus. Who do you care for in the church? Consider how a widow might think. After she loses her husband, by any kind of means, she might be wondering, “What value do I have?”
When the widows were put on the rolls, they made a vow to serve the Lord in a variety of works and prayer. They didn’t stay home and watch Oprah on their clay tablet. The church provided the minimum as they served. What was the minimum? Paul explained that later in the book,
6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:6-8 NKJ)
The minimum is providing food and clothing, which would include some kind of shelter, which may be in someone’s home. Paul wrote,
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. (1 Tim. 5:9-10 NKJ)
Paul emphasizes three characteristics. First, she must be over 60. She can still choose to get married at any age, if she is a widow, as Paul wrote,
39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:39 NKJ)
But, to be put on the widow’s roll, she must be over 60. Paul will explain in verse 14 that younger widows were to remarry.
Secondly, she is to be “the wife of one man.” Now, we saw a similar expression in 1 Timothy 3:2, where it said an elder was to be the “husband of one wife.” What does it mean here that a widow is to be the wife of one man? If she has been married twice, does that preclude her from being on the widow’s roll? Let’s consider a scenario with that in mind.
Let’s consider Anne was married when she was twenty and her husband Sam was 21. Sam is out hunting a year later and a big brown bear kills him. Anne is now 21 and according to 1 Timothy 5:14, she should get married. So, Peter comes along and asks Anne to marry him. She agrees and they live for 50 years. Then Peter dies from bone cancer. Anne is heart-broken and financially bankrupt because all of their resources went to pay for Peter’s cancer treatments.
Anne goes to the church leadership with her friend and agree to the widow’s vow of commitment to serve the Lord at church for the rest of her life. The church leadership dust off their Bibles and see in 1 Timothy 5:9 that the widow can only be married to one husband, so they politely decline, because they see she must be the wife of one husband. In other words, Anne obeyed Scripture to remarry, but now the elders use another passage against her so she can’t receive support and she is destitute.
Fortunately, the astute pastor says, “Guys, we have not interpreted this correctly. It’s not married one time, it should be interpreted ‘a one man woman.’ In other words, she has been completely faithful and didn’t play the field with other men while she was married. Faithfulness is the key, not quantity of husbands. Each situation must be carefully evaluated.
Thirdly, the widow must be known for good works. She must be like Dorcas in Acts 9:36-39. She has served well in her home, church and community. Paul further clarifies what examples are of good works. First, she raised children. If it only referred to her own children, then they would provide for her. She helped raise abandoned children and was involved in raising many children. Secondly, she lodged strangers. She was hospitable. Travel in those days was dangerous and she risked lodging for strangers. Thirdly, she washed saints feet, which showed her willingness to do menial tasks. This was beneath the dignity of most. I love the illustration Paul used to describe himself as a servant of Christ.
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Cor. 4:1 NKJ)
The normal word for servant is “diakonos.” That means table waiter. But the word Paul uses here is “huperetes” which means “under-rower” and there is nothing lower. In the ancient fleets, the ships often had two sets of rowers – the top-rowers and the under-rowers. The rowers were not always able to hold the contents of their stomach in and they expressed them onto the floor. The problem is that the contents would leak down along with other unmentionable things and the heat and dank conditions made the life of an under-rower difficult. Washing feet in the ancient world was often difficult, but it expressed love even as Jesus washed feet. There is no task beneath our dignity.
Fourthly, she relieved the afflicted, that is, she fed the hungry, cared for the sick, encouraged the sorrowing. What a blessing to any pastor! And finally she was diligent in all her good works. Did it really matter? Was it just a matter that they had to work for what the church gave them?
God was especially loving toward widows. David wrote in Psalm 68,
4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him. 5 A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. 6 God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. (Ps. 68:4-6 NKJ)
Widows are a part of the body of Christ. They are also vulnerable. James wrote,
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. (Jam. 1:27 NKJ)
God cares for widows. These widows served in the temple (church) night and day. They don’t go off traveling every weekend. They aren’t consumed by hobbies or politics. They serve, assist, support and help because they realize they have little time left and they want to know and serve their Lord, before they get to heaven.
How do you show caring relationships, especially to widows? Provide for widows to honor Jesus. But Paul doesn’t expect the church to provide for everyone. He never teaches spiritual socialism or communism.
3) Disciple younger widows to honor Jesus 5:11-15
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry. (1 Tim. 5:11 NKJ)
Paul was aware of cases where younger widows were put on the list, but then they broke their vows. There were many husbands who died of disease or dangers, and those young widows were not to be put on the roll. This does not exclude them from support from the church. The challenge was their physical desires may continue after a husband’s death. And while they might want to serve Christ, potential marriage may distract them. Paul wasn’t against marriage, but he did warn that being single allowed a person to be more freely focused on pleasing Jesus than being concerned about things of the world when married. Therefore refuse younger widows. Paul added,
12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. (1 Tim. 5:12 NKJ)
They reneged on their vow. They had pledged to Christ, but then sought another. Words are important! Have you ever sent an email and then forgot to attach something, so you sent another and put “oops” in the subject line? We’ve probably all done something like that. God, however, has never sent an “Oops!” message. Can you imagine getting to heaven and God saying, “Oops, I really did mean you had to give 25% of your income every month. Sorry, but because you didn’t, you’ll have to go to the other place!” Jesus told the disciples,
36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37 NKJ)
Yes, our words are important. And young widows with time on their hands squandered both time and their words, so Paul encouraged them to marry.
13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. (1 Tim. 5:13 NKJ)
So, instead of discipling other women, they squander time and opportunities. They would go from house to house as part of church visitation, but they became gossips. The word for “gossip” means “throw up empty bubbles,” or empty talk. It was talk for the sake of talking. There was no purpose in the talk. They also were busybodies, which meant they would stick their nose into other people’s business. Consequently, Paul exhorted,
14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Tim. 5:14 NKJ)
Paul said to solidify the basic unit of society – the family. Bear children meant to be fruitful in raising godly children That was God’s command in Genesis 1:28. God spoke through Malachi that He made two into one for the purpose that there would be godly offspring. We have not filled the earth with godly offspring. And he said, then the younger widow as a wife again, would manage or rule the house like the Proverbs 31 woman. A husband trusts her so he can go out to work and provide for his family. Take the Proverbs 31 woman as a standard, like the standard of the holiness of God. None of us will be holy as God is, but we’re commanded to be holy. We don’t live under guilt for not being as holy as God is, so don’t live under guilt if you are not all the Proverbs 31 woman is. Use it as a good standard. But notice what Paul mentioned. Work hard to avoid idleness and gossip.
She should marry so that she would stay busy and “give no opportunity to the adversary.” Kenneth Wuest called this, “A place from which a movement or attack is made, a base of operations.” Paul used this several times,
8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. (Rom. 7:8 NKJ)
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Rom. 7:11 NKJ)
12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. (2 Cor. 11:12 NKJ)
Sin and Satan are looking for opportunities and he is going to find a use for idle hands. The widow can give the devil a beach head in the church by her lack of diligence. Paul was concerned for widows, but mainly the church. Therefore, be open to marriage for stability of the church. She can marry any man, as long as he is a believer in the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:39)
15 For some have already turned aside after Satan.(1 Tim. 5:15 NKJ)
The enemy is in the church, which is why saints must pursue holiness. Unfortunately, some of the saints have followed after or behind Satan. What she should be doing is what Paul wrote to Titus,
3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things– 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Tit. 2:3-5 NKJ)
Older women should build the bridge to the younger women, who should walk across and seek help. Younger women do you have help from older women? Have you asked? Are there any you trust? Older women, are you building bridges to younger women to help them? How do you show caring relationships, especially to widows? Disciple younger widows to honor Jesus by getting married.
4) Disciple believers to care for their own for Jesus sake 5:16
16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows. (1 Tim. 5:7-16 NKJ)
Take care of relatives. We often think of 1 Timothy 5:8 as an admonition to fathers and it is. This charge is given to both men and women to care for widows. It’s not how much you make to go on vacations and spend on hobbies, it’s how much you honor the Lord by obeying the Word. Do you have food & clothing as we saw in 1 Timothy 6:6-8? There were often women of means and they were to be more concerned with family, than their own personal wants. Let the church not be burdened. You may have to reorient your priorities. But take care of the body of Jesus.
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “How does this principle apply to Christians today? Certainly we must honor our parents and grandparents and seek to provide for them if they have needs. Not every Christian family is able to take in another member, and not every widow wants to live with her children. Where there is sickness or handicap, professional care is necessary, and perhaps this cannot be given in a home. Each family must decide what God’s will is in the matter, and no decision is easy. The important thing is that believers show love and concern and do all they can to help each other.”
Jesus is Your Provider!
How we care for the vulnerable reveals how God cares for us.
Take care of your family and let the church care for others in need.
- The church must care for people, but family is first responsible.
- Caring for people is misunderstood, abused and complicated.
- Caring for grandparents should receive a higher priority than presently exists. But their resources should be used first.
- Widows must remember God’s care, family responsibility, and ministry opportunities. Graciously accept that support.Let’s go back to the three widows I mentioned. Julie was 44 and her husband Tom died of cancer leaving her to care for two young people. The church did not let her be put on the widow’s roll, because she was working, her son Joey was 19, worked in Danville and went to 1st EFree. He was responsible to care for her needs and she should remarry because she is well under 60.
Geraldine was 65 and well known because of her good works at church. Her husband Jack died of an auto accident a couple months ago. Even though she was over 60, she had a niece in town, who went to another EFCA church, who could provide for her.
Either of these two women could have received help from the benevolence fund, but not put on the widow’s list, because they had support from other family members.
Then there was Myrtle, who was 88 and her husband Jack had died of a hunting accident last winter. She was totally bereaved without any relatives, but the leadership still said no. The challenge the church leadership saw was that she was driving brand new SUVs every year and had a very large home full because of her expertise in antiques. She already had many resources that would not allow her to be put on the widow roll. The church was not required to help her maintain her standard of living. We’ve seen the standard of living, which was food and clothing, which that would not be a problem for her for over a decade.
What I like about Grace is the couple people who went shoveling snow for widows last winter. I love that there are a few that visit widows in the church. There’s even one family that had a widow as a Grandmother for their children for a time.
How we care for the vulnerable reveals how we think God cares for us.
How do you show care for the vulnerable?
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) How did your guardians show you that you would be cared for as a child?
2) Does God care if families suffer when the dad dies? __________ Why is there such a strong command to provide for your family (cf. 1 Tim 5:7-8)? Does this only apply to fathers?
3) Was a widow free to make a vow? _____________ If a widow were to make a vow to serve in the church and then break that vow to get married, what would God’s view of that be (cf. Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21; Ecc. 5:4-5)?
4) Should the church evaluate whether they should support a widow in the church? ___________ What is the purpose of providing for widows (1 Tim. 5:9-10)? What is their responsibility in the provision from the church?
Making application from the message to life:
5) What if you are estranged from your parents? Do you have to provide for mother or grandma if dad or grandpa dies? ________ Why does God place a strong emphasis on family in this context? What does it represent?
6) How do you teach people to take care of their own? What if they don’t want to? What if they don’t know how? How will you disciple them?
7) What are several examples of situations when you would not provide support to someone from the benevolent fund at Grace?
Principles on the Poor
- Care for the poor or live with the consequences Pro. 21:13; Gal. 2:9-10
- Caring for the poor demonstrates our relationship to God Jer. 22:16; Jam. 1:29
- Giving to the poor reveals a right heart toward God Matt. 19:20-23
- It is more blessed to give than receive Acts 20:35
- All saints have the privilege of providing for the needs of the saints Rom. 12:13
- While we have opportunity, we are to do good for all men, and especially saints Gal. 6:10
- God is pleased with sacrifices and sharing Heb. 13:16
- The believing poor will be comforted in heaven Luke 16:19-25
- The poor are able to worship and give to the Lord Luke 21:1-4
- If they are able to work, they must 2 Thes. 3:10
- Go to the defense of the poor Ps. 82:3
- This is not socialism, or an uncle sugar society. This is personal assistance in another’s life, because God has blessed you and you are motivated to help someone without whoever it is.