Today’s passage is I Timothy 5:1-16. From today’s passage let’s look at how we should serve each other in the church which is the family of God.
1.As family (Vs. 1-3)
First please look at verses 1 to 3.
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.”
Paul said in 3:15 that the church is God’s family, God’s household. In the family there are different members: grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son, daughter, grandchildren, etc. It is composed of different members. The church is God’s family so the church is also the same. It has people of different ages, positions, and circumstances. Recently it is said that there are a lot of elderly in the church, but normally the elderly, young, men, and women, people of all ages gather in the church. In such a church how should we serve each other?
In verse 1 Paul says first of all, “Do not rebuke an old man harshly.” When humans grow old they can’t move as vigorously and quick as when they were young. Because of that there are cases where young people treat the elderly as people who stand in their way and are mean to them. However, there must not be such things in the church. “Do not rebuke…harshly” means not to scold severely. The elderly fail and make mistakes, but even at such times you must “not rebuke…harshly” or look down on them and find fault with them.
According to Tsugio Kosegawa when you get old your thinking is controlled by three thoughts. One is by sentimental memories of past life: the success and failures, the joys and sadness, etc. The mixed feelings of joy and anger are constantly crossing over each other. When you remember an event for a moment you rejoice, then in the next moment feelings of regret suddenly overcome you. There are times when you are emotionally unstable. The second is emotions that come from the future. Such feelings of fear of death, uncertainties that come from the ageing of the body, the hope of heaven, etc. are interwoven. Thirdly are the sentiments that come from the present conditions: feelings of not working, powerless, isolation, etc. It is hard for those who are working hard to understand such feelings, but it is important to understand such mixed emotions and not put pressure on the elderly who move at their own pace. We must not be harsh towards them.
Lev. 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” In today’s passage it says to treat older men as fathers, and “older women as mothers.” (2) The Greek word used for “treat” (1) is paracleo which means “stand next to and assist”. It is the root word for paracletos which means the comforter or Holy Spirit. It is to stand next and encourage or stand next and help. If an elderly person makes a mistake or does a wrong, we must stand next to him and encourage him. Especially here it says “as fathers” (1) and “as mothers”. (1) The 10 commandments teach us that we should honor our father and mother. Therefore, to treat the elderly “as fathers” (1) and “as mothers” is to honor them. It is also respecting the elderly for their life experience and the character that was formed by the mixing of those experiences.
Next is how we should treat young people. “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1, 2) Among young people there may be some who are wild and irresponsible or cause only trouble. There may be some that leave a lot to be desired. However, when we have contact with them, we must treat them as brother and sister. To treat as brothers and sisters is treat the relationship like an intimate relationship that even if you cut off the relationship it doesn’t become a broken relationship. Here too the word “treat” (1) is used. Therefore, it is not looking down on the person and spitting out words of disgust, but we must support them standing beside them and helping them.
Especially younger women are to be treated “as sisters, with absolute purity.” (2) “Absolute purity” (2) is used also in 4:12. It is a pure heart with no secret intentions. In other words they are to be treated like real sisters.
Please look at verse 3. The next to appear is “the widowed”. (3) In that age a widow by losing her husband lost her life base. They didn’t have social security like we have today so all the support for life was lost. It was extremely necessary for the church to support such widows. Rather, not just the widowers, it was the church’s duty to help the weak in society. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” “To look after the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) was an important duty of the church.
Paul is saying, “Give proper recognition to those widows” (3) He didn’t say just to take care of them and help them, but to “give proper recognition to those widows.” (3) To “give proper recognition” is to show honor and respect. However, it goes beyond the honor that is to be shown to the elderly as Paul taught in verses 1 and 2. Not only were the widows to be honored and respected, but they were to be taken care of too.
By the way, the name Timothy means “honor God”. A person that honors God honors God’s family. Also even within God’s family he especially honors the weak.
Paul said that the church was Christ’s body. If you look at what a body is like we can understand this. Paul says in I Cor. 12:22-27, “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.”
The church is the body of Christ. “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it.” (I Cor. 12:22, 24) Therefore, by honoring those that are weak, the church becomes a healthy body. The church benefits from all its combined parts.
However, here it isn’t saying to help all widows. Here it says, “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (3) That is so as it says in verse 16 the church will not be burdened by them. Not all churches have enough money financially. There are some churches that are poor. For such poor churches to help orphaned children and widows it was necessary for them to distinguish who “those widows who are really in need” (3) are. Even if a church was poor, the church must as a whole support such needy widows. Next let’s look at who “those widows who are really in need” (3) are.
2.Those widows who are really in need (Vs. 4-10)
- “Those widows who are really in need” (3) have no blood or non-blood relatives. Verse 4 says, “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.”
In other words, it is important that children and grandchildren learn to respect, care for, and repay their parents and grandparents. There may be some people that can’t respect their parents. They may think that their parents didn’t bring them up well or that they showed no compunction for abandoning them. However, it is certain that their parents bore them. Now they exist because they had parents that gave birth to them. Their parents may not have brought them up well. They may have made mistakes. It may be true that they had weak points. However, to continue to have bitterness or to not respect them is not pleasing to God.
Verse 8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” No matter what kind of parents a person had to “not provide for” (8) his parents it to deny “the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (8) “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is pleasing to God. Children must learn to do this and we must teach them to do so.
- “Those widows who are really in need” (3) put their “hope in God.” (5) Please look at verses 5 and 6. “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.”
“Those widows who are really in need” (3) put their hope in God and continue “night and day to pray and ask God for help.” (5) In other words, they live a life of faith. Such a person like verse 10, “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.” They are women who don’t receive any remuneration from the church, but like the church staff, just earnestly serve God and the church. It is only natural for the church to support them. That is because such people have always supported the church.
“But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (6) That is not just limited to widows. A person who lives for his own pleasure, for his own joy and contentment “is dead even while” (6) he lives. Even though normally the older and older a person gets, the longer and longer he has faith, he must become a model of a person of faith and lives a life of godliness, but if he his living for pleasure, that’s terrible. Just because she is a widow, the church mustn’t thoughtlessly support her. The church must not support a person that is living for pleasure.
- “Those widows who are really in need” (3) are “over sixty” (9) and have “been faithful to her husband.” (9) Please look at verse 9. “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband.” It says, “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty.” (9) In that age over 60 was considered elderly. Here there are probably some people over 60 who think they are still young, but in that age over 60 was counted as elderly. Here it says, “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty.” The reason will appear after this so I’d like to identify it then.
Also here it says, “has been faithful to her husband.” (9) The fruits of faith must first be evident in the marriage relationship. The Greek phrase in verse 9, literally, “one-man woman” is the counterpart to the “one-woman man” which describes the overseer and deacon (3:2, 12) This refers to faithfulness in marriage.
Thus, a widow is a widow, but “give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (3) Often there are people who think that the church should help all people who are in poverty without conditions or requirements. However, that it not so. Real kindness is not giving help to just anyone no matter what he does. The church must help “those widows who are really in need” (3) have no blood or non-blood relatives, are “left all alone” (5) put their “hope in God” (5) and continue “night and day to pray and ask God for help,” (5) are “over sixty” (9) and have “been faithful to” (9) their husband. I think we must think more seriously and constructively about helping people in this kind of situations.
3.Do not put younger widows on such a list (Verses 11-16)
Please look at verses 11 to 16.
“Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 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 gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help then and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”
Until now we have looked at what “widows who are really in need” (3) are like. “Those widows who are really in need” (3) have no blood or non-blood relatives, are “left all alone” (5) put their “hope in God” (5) and continue “night and day to pray” (5) and serve God. Then an age restriction of over 60 was laid. Here it says, “As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list.” (11) That is because “when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.” (11,12)
In the ancient church among the exponent theologians were John Chrysostom and Tertullianus. According to their accounts, the first church had a system concerning the widows. They established an agreement that for widows that serve God for life, the church will fulfill their obligation to them. Those who were registered had faith and had to pledge to not remarry the rest of their lives. Those who made this vow put on “widows clothes” and received the laying on of hands. Therefore, here the widows that are being spoken about are not just widows. Their husbands had died and they had vowed to serve the Lord for the rest of their life.
However, this mustn’t be the case with young widows too. That is because “when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.” (11,12) “Their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ” (11) means that “their sensual desires overcome” their commitment to dedicate themselves to Christ. As a result of their youth, for “sensual desires,” (11) they discard their first vow, their first faith. This is the image of a young ox that tries to escape from his yoke. In the old day the fields were plowed by 2 oxen that were tied together by a yoke. However, in time one of the oxen tries to escape from the yoke. Young widows are the same. They try to escape from the yoke and “they want to marry.”
To marry in and of its self is not bad. The problem is that even though they had promised to give all to Jesus, they break the vow and marry. Now that they became a widow, they vow to give the rest of their life to God. It is like Catholic sisters that even though they vow not to marry and give their life to God, when they meet a kind man, a man whose faith they respect, soon “they want to marry.” (11) This is the problem.
Marriage is wonderful. It is a blessing of God. However, marriage isn’t everything. If your husband dies first, it is also wonderful to give the Lord the rest of your life and serve the Lord. That’s because “a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world-how he can please his wife-and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs; her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” (I Cor. 7:33,34) “But if you do marry, you have not sinned.” (I Cor. 7:28) However, Paul advises, “Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.” (I Cor. 7:26) That is because you can live “in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (I Cor. 7:35) Therefore. marrying is a good thing. Also “if she stays as she is,” (I. Cor. 7:40) in other words, she doesn’t remarry, that is also wonderful. What is important is how you are going to serve the Lord in the situation that you are in. If a young woman becomes a widow, she must think about how she should spend the rest of her life. Then if she has vowed to give the rest of her life to the Lord, she must not turn her back on that vow. However, it says that “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.” (11)
“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 gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” (13) These are the women that have discarded their first vow. A woman whose husband dies and vowed that she would use the rest of her life for the Lord is good, but then if she gives up her vow and marries another man, has time on her hands and idles away her life, “going about from house to house. And … also gossips.” (13) They are busybodies, “saying things they ought not to.” (13)
Therefore, Paul counsels the younger women “to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” (14) That is because “Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.” (15 Therefore, while you are young, you should work faithfully, or do your household jobs, and live a calm life.
Just because a person is a widow we shouldn’t haphazardly support them. We need to among the widows “give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (3) That’s because the church is God’s family.
As you know the other day Vanatu, a small country in the South Pacific was hit by a huge cyclone that did extensive damage. Actually 70% of the countries’ population lost their homes. We received a report on the present condition from our friend Greg Carlson and his wife who are sent out by Wycliffe to do Bible translation there. According to Greg the people of Vanatu are facing a deeper problem than the loss of their homes. That is food! They live off of the land. Most of the population lives by subsistence farming. Their crops were all destroyed so they have nothing to eat. Even if they plant seeds, it will take 6 months before they can harvest. Fortunately rice has been sent to Vanatu from many countries, but they have nothing to eat but rice.
When I received this report I prayed about what I should do. God’s answer was “give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (3) In the body of Christ, God’s church, if there are such people, we should give them proper recognition.
We should do what we can to help them. The problem is not how much we give. What is important is that we follow God’s word, and put it into practice. In the back of the room there is an offering box so please pray and give.
A few weeks ago on the television program “Unbelievable” Shu Wuan Jien was introduced on a film strip from China entitled “2013’s most beautiful neighbor”. In 1979 Shun who lived in a small village in Shisensho, China was 15 years old. His family was poor and they didn’t even have money to buy pig feed. Every day he would go to the town and gather left over food that could be used to feed the pig.
One day Shun eyes fell upon some people who were eating wantan ramen which looked so delicious. Without thinking Shun stopped and looked at them. Food like wantan that has meat in it was too expensive for the poor.
Then a 60 year old woman named Wan Zuyu said to him, “It’s hard when you are still a child to collect left over food.” Then she gave him some wantan ramen to eat. Shu was so thankful. Also he thought that he wanted to become a person like Wan.
However, the next day he saw Wan working as a carrier of baggage. Moreover her blind son was pushing the cart from the rear. Besides that she had a sick husband. He realized that she was poor like him. After that too Wan was always concerned about Shun.
21 years passed. Shun married and had a family. Even after he became an adult he visited and kept his relationship with Wan. In 2002 when Shun was 38 years old he received the news that Wan’s husband and son unfortunately died. Besides that, Wan broke both legs and was put in a home for the elderly. The homes for the elderly in China are public so they are almost all free, but for an older person like Wan who is by herself the greatest agony is loneliness. At that time Wan was 83 years old. Therefore, Shun talked with his own mother, wife, and son and brought Wan to his home to live with them. He loved her like his own mother. The people around him could not understand why he would bring an old lady to live with him. They thought he did it out of an expectation for something in return, but her only possession was a walking cane. In return as gratitude for one bowl of wantan ramen he brought Wan to his house.
Then after 11 years in Jan. of 2014 Wan died. She was 95 years old. While she was alive, she said to Shun, “You weren’t my real son. However, like a real son you loved me. You did so much that I don’t know how to repay you. I’m thankful from the bottom of my heart.”
At the “The most beautiful neighbor” awards ceremony Shun said, “A neighbor is in a sense family. Wan treated me like a family member when I was young. Even today she lives within my heart.”
These words, “A neighbor is in a sense family” rang strongly in my heart. The church is God’s family. Therefore, we are asked to treat the members as a family. The church has people of many different ages, backgrounds, and circumstances, but no matter what kind of person, we are asked to treat them as family. How do you look at the people in the church, the family God? Let’s remember once again that the church is the family of God and let’s treat the members like family.