The Churches Ministry to Widows Indeed

1 Timothy 5:1-9 SCC 12/16/12


            When you rebuke someone or confront their sin, you're not to beat them with blows or metaphorically to hammer them with words. Confronting sin is to be done without that violence and harshness of a rebuke that would be foreign to God’s household.

Now having set that principle out he illustrates it in four different age groups:

In relation to an older man, we confront sin with respect as to a father.

"We are not to be harsh and violent with older men, but to appeal to them as a father." That’s family relationship. If you see your father sin a sin, or knew your father was in sin, how would you approach him? He goes to him as he would go to his own father, whom he lovingly respects.

In relation to a younger man, we confront sin with humility as to a brother.

How do you confront sin in relation to a younger man? In verse 1, "The younger men as brothers." If the word for confronting a father is respect, the word for confronting a brother is humility. No superiority is assumed; you go to one who is your brother. There's no hierarchy in the word ‘brother’. It is a word of equality. In the family of God we are brothers and we are to share brotherly love. Brotherly love is to characterize us, that kind of brotherly love that covers a multitude of sins. So when you go to a brother, you go with family love (2 Thess 3:13-14).

Thirdly, in relation to older women  "We confront sin with gentleness as to a mother."

When you go to an older woman, you should go with the proper respect, remembering the Old Testament calls all of us to respect father and mother. There will be times, however, in the family of God when older women sin. And when an older woman sins she must be confronted with gentleness as to a mother (Phil 4 Euodia and Syntyche).

Deal with sinning younger women, you have to deal with them as sisters.

Whoever deals with younger women, they are to deal with them as a sister, and the key word is purity. This is the only one of the four groups where he adds any other statement, "With all purity."

            It's part of ministry to have to deal with older men, younger men, older women, younger women. And you need to be sure that in all those relationships where you're coming against sin and strengthening them to righteousness that you treat those different groups of people in a proper way just like you would in a family. This is an example as to how we all ought to be caring for one another in the matter of confronting sin.

            Now in God's design, women are to be the special object of care. Women are to be the object of provision and preservation and protection. God tells us in Scripture that woman is the weaker vessel. Man then the stronger vessel is her protector. She is to be under the umbrella of male protection, provision, authority, and direction. Because of this, widows, women without a husband, women who have lost their husband and therefore their means of support, are very special concerns of Gods heart.

In the Old Testament we find then two major ideas regarding the widow. One, when a woman loses her husband she becomes the special care of God Ex22:23. Two, she is encouraged to find shelter in another marriage for the protection that is there or in the home of a relative where she can find the proper kind of support Deut 25:5ff.

In the New Testament we find Jesus Christ demonstrates to us the heart of God toward widows (Mark 12:41ff; Luke 7:11; Luke 18:2ff). The heart of God comes through in how the Lord speaks about a widow, how He treated His own widowed mother, and how He instructs through what we read in 1 Timothy. Then in Acts 6 the first ministry that really developed spontaneously in the early church was the care of women who were widows.

Here are some principles of the churches’ ministry to ‘widows indeed’ in 1 Timothy 5:

1. God’s household has an obligation to support widows.

            Verse 3 says, Honor widows that are real widows. The word means a woman whose husband is dead but might also include through divorce, desertion, and imprisonment. It means to show respect and care. It encompasses the idea of meeting needs whatever they are including financially. When he says honor widows, he has in mind not just respect and not just regard but he has also in mind financial support. That basically means they cared for you when you were young, you care for them when their need arises in their old age. So honor widows means to support them, not only with respect and kindness and favor but also with financial aid.

            Not every woman is in that situation. Many husbands have left their wives with adequate resources, a home, a bank account, or an insurance policy. So they have the where with all to care for their needs financially. In that regard we may not have a responsibility financially to a widow. That doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility for spiritual assistance, in terms of graciousness, kindness, in their personal and spiritual life. But financial support is to go to widows who are real widows, that is, they have no other source of income. They have lost their husband, they are desolate, as verse 5 uses the word, or literally they have been totally alone and without resources.

2. The obligation of God’s household is to evaluate those widows needing support v 4.

            It is the responsibility of the children and the grandchildren to support that widow. That's the family's responsibility. In verse 8 it says if you don't do that you're worse than an unbeliever. The family has the first responsibility to take care of widows before they're ever put on the church's list of responsibility. The family is the context where true spirituality is revealed. The home is the proving ground of godliness. This responsibility belongs in the family. That is, to return support to their parents who supported them when they were young. That is good and acceptable before God v 4. That's what the fifth commandment required in Exodus 20, "Honor your father and mother," and that means support them when they need that.

3. A true widow indeed is one without a family structure to support her v 5.

            Now he goes on to define a ‘widow indeed’. The one in verse 4 is really not a widow indeed. She has support from her children and grandchildren. But in verse 5, "She that is a widow indeed.” That is she doesn't have children or grandchildren or she doesn't have children and grandchildren who are willing to care for her and it adds ‘left alone or desolate’. She is a real widow. So when you come across this widow indeed who has been totally left without resources, we have a responsibility to her.

            But here are the criteria in verse 5, "She trusts in God." She not only is in a continual condition of being without means but she is in a continual condition of presenting herself to God as her only hope. She trusts in the God who has promised to care for widows, the God who has entrusted Himself to her to be her support when she has no support. This means she's a Christian woman. We are to come to the aid of a woman who trusts in God as a godly woman. And her godliness is seen in the next phrase. "She continues in supplication and prayers night and day." The fact that she had fixed her hope on God shows that she's a Christian, the fact that she continues day and night in prayer and supplication shows that she's a committed Christian, a godly woman. She's petitioning God about her needs. She's telling God her needs and she is in dependence on Him. We may choose to help others. We are mandated to care for these.

            In v 6 we see how specific this is. The one who goes out and lives for her own ease and all she wants in her own satisfaction and her own indulgence, she may be living physically but she is dead spiritually. The widow leading a life of pleasure with no thought for what is right or what is wrong is dead while she lives. We're not going to support spiritually dead people including indulging widows.

            Verse 7, "And these things command that they may be blameless." What are these things? Everything he said since verse 3. You command this to your people that they might be without blame, whether they are families who ought to support widows, or whether they are widows who ought to live godly lives.

            Verse 8, and he wraps this up "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own family he is denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." In verse 4 he said, first of all, children take care of your parents. Now in verse 8 he says if you don't you're worse than an unbeliever. So if you don't provide for your own, that is, the widows that are in your network, and especially of those of his or her own family, you are guilty of two things.

(1) You’ve denied the faith. You deny the biblical principle of compassionate love that is the very center of the Christian faith. God so loved the world that He gave. The love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, Romans 5:5. By this shall all men know that you're my disciples, you have love one for another. In Thessalonians, "You don't have any need for a man to teach you how to love, you're taught of God to love one another." The heart of the Christian faith is compassionate love, compassionate care, and compassionate support. Christianity at its very heart is that. If you have widows in the network of your relationship, women who are alone and without resources and particularly in your own family, and you do not support them, you have denied the heart of the Christian faith. Life at its basic unit is an act of love toward someone in need.

(2) You’re worse than an unbeliever. In practice you've denied the faith. In practice you look worse than an unbeliever. Why? Because most unbelievers take care of their own. Most unbelievers have no idea of the obligation of love that God has given. And most unbelievers have no real model to follow since they don't know Christ. And unbelievers don't have the power to love that we have. So we have the mandate, we have the model and we have the power and if we don't come up to the level of an unbeliever in caring for someone in need, then we're worse than they are. And the Christian who falls below that basic standard of loving provision is more to be blamed because of what he knows, the command he's under and the love he possesses.