1 Timothy 5:1-25 A Duty of Care
Paul gives Timothy instructions for the church. He focuses on widows. He also touches on leadership. His final words in our reading, for today, focuses on Timothy personally.
I want to skip to the end in looking at our reading. Paul impresses the seriousness of his instructions to Timothy. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality” (verse 21).
Being the leader of this group was a BIG responsibility. I’m wondering if Timothy’s stomach trouble was due to stress. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that was the source of most of his illnesses. I’m also thinking that Paul’s signaling out these two issues in the church was probably because these were some of Timothy’s biggest stressors.
The church was not meant to support every widow. Paul puts limits on this duty so the church won’t be overburdened and so the family of the widow will act according to God’s plan. Widows who are childless and have no grandchildren, AND are over 60 years of age make the first cut. Next, their character and how she has lived. A life of service is rewarded.
Paul instructs Timothy to “enroll” these women. I believe that means that they can depend on the church to care for them for the rest of their lives. I also believe that they are then expected to continue in their good works in the name of the church. That would include helping the younger women, helping with the ill and injured, and generally showing hospitality on behalf of Jesus’ body.
Younger widows are encouraged to remarry and raise children. They still have much to contribute and much to learn. A lifetime of experiences await. This doesn’t preclude the church from helping a young widow right after her husband passes, but does limit their role.
From the description Paul gives Timothy regarding widows being drawn away from Christ, I’m seeing those “enrolled” as behaving like the definition of a nun in the Catholic church. These women serve God with their whole life and are required to remain unmarried. The departure from this would be the age limit Paul imposes.
Paul also cautions Timothy regarding quickly appointing or judging elders. I can understand a rush to appoint help in Timothy’s stressful job but Paul encourages him to take time to observe the life first. “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgement, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden” (verses 24-25).
Paul warns Timothy to ensure that any judgements or accusations made against a leader don’t come from one single source. This didn’t put a leader above reproach but required at least two or three witnesses before accepting a charge. This was actually Jewish law practice, but the Jewish law also stipulated who was qualified to be a witness. Women and lower ranking individuals held no “authority” as witnesses.
Leaders who continued in their sin were to be rebuked in the presence of all. I’m assuming that included being removed from office. This wasn’t meant to be a public flogging but to inform the body of the separation of this individual from office and fellowship, UNTIL the person repented and showed fruits of that change. But that is for another discussion.
Through Paul’s instructions I think Timothy could see a light at the end of his tunnel. He had hard and fast rules for limiting the church’s role of responsibility and firm guidelines for appointing helpers. Maybe a bit less tummy trouble would soon follow.
Thank You Father that I NONE of us has to “do it all.” You designed the body of Christ. You created the framework even in the beginning with Adam and Eve. You made leadership and helping positions. You also instituted servant leadership. Thank You Lord Jesus for filling that role to perfection. I know God had that in mind with the law but man twisted it, as usual.
Thank You Lord Jesus for allowing me to serve in several different roles in Your body over the years. My favorites involved working with the children and music. I don’t know what You have for my future but I’m content to wait until You move me again. Thank You for letting me share my heart this way. Hopefully it blesses and encourages others in their walk too.