Compassionate Planning

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:9-16)

We talked about caring for widows a couple of weeks ago and how Paul spent so much time on this important topic. We saw how God cares for those who are in need and instructs us to be involved in meeting needs. God takes special interest in women who have lost their husbands. He always has, even back in the Old Testament. Listen to this from the Old Testament law…

22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:22-24)

‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:19)

And one more that shows the heart of God…

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17)

Sprinkled throughout the Old Testament are these forceful statements regarding caring for widows. In the New Testament we have examples too…

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

God’s ways are made known regarding the caring of widows. If God is concerned for them, we should be too. I remember reading about Martyn Lloyd-Jones when he was dying of cancer. He was near death and people, many people would come to visit him and some would have questions for him. Everyone wanted to know how this man of God would handle himself in his affliction. One person asked, “What about your wife, are you concerned about the care of your wife when you pass on?” His answer was to convey the truth that it is God who has always cared for her and God is not the one dying. God will continue to care for her as He always has! Lloyd-Jones knew that the Lord would provide for his wife. God cares about widows.

We learned from 5:3 that we are to show honor to widows. Now when we get down to verse 9 we begin to see something interesting and something that may be a bit unclear for us. Paul begins talking about widows being on a list or about widows being enrolled in something. And with that, he begins clarifying what widows should be on the list or be enrolled and which ones should not be enrolled.

Now we know that this whole discussion on widows has been primarily about caring for the needs of widows. This list that the church had must be about that because of the context, but it seems to be more than just caring for them because it talks of ways that these widows who are enrolled also care for others.

This list contains qualifications similar to what we saw with qualifications for elder and deacons. So the best conclusion about this list or enrollment is that it is a list of widows who have special areas of ministry in the church and are also cared for, probably exclusively, by the church. They are ministering for the needs of others and they are being ministered to as their practical needs are met.

Most would not believe that the list is only for receiving charity, because of the age requirement that we will see in a minute. It would be strange to say, “We will help only widows in need who are over 60 and not anyone younger.” So again, this list is often thought to be that of widows who are ministering in special ways and are also being ministered to.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work (1 Timothy 5:9-10)

Paul begins by saying that to be enrolled a widow must be over 60. In the first century, this would be considered retirement age. There is a lot of information out there about the average mortality rate for people in this first-century culture. Some say the average age is only around 35 or so, and that is sort of true, but only because the infant mortality rate was really bad. If you were to live until 10 then you had a good opportunity to get into the 60s or possibly even older. So we can get from this that he is talking about a woman who has raised children and now is older and mostly not able to really provide for herself, even if she had been before. She is now beginning to need some assistance. So after the age requirement we read of her character, how she has lived her life so far. It says, “the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” This is where we begin to see the widow’s important ministry in the church, we see it because of the qualifications listed here. Notice some similarities from Titus 2:3-5…

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)

Older women have important places in the church, whether they are widows or not.

For the widow to be on the list, a special minister in the church she must first be the wife of one husband. This is the same as what we read of elders and deacons where it says the husband of one wife. The construction is the same and it literally here means a one-man woman. It has to do with faithfulness in marriage, being faithful to the one she is married to. This is not a statement about having not been married more than once but is about being faithful to the one she is married to. It is not wrong for a widow to remarry, in fact we will see in a minute that Paul urges some widows to marry. So a woman who has had two husbands because she was widowed does not disqualify her from being enrolled if she is widowed again and meets the other qualificaitons.

She is also to have a good reputation for good works. In other words, she was to be known as one who does good works. She would be known for that. Wouldn’t you like to be known for that? When people see you they think, “There goes so and so, when I think of her I think about all the good she does because she loves Christ Jesus!” That would be one with a reputation of good works. What sort of good works? Well, Paul begins to define them.

First, “she has brought up children.” Brought up here means to nourish them. She is a mother who carefully cared for her children. This is the great privilege of a wife and mother. When God gives her children she tends to them in the love and instruction of the Lord. This is not meant to be a slight against the childless wife or the single person, it is only speaking of what was most common. Even the childless can adopt or work with orphans as can single women help with children in a variety of ways. Children are a blessing from the Lord and the godly mother cares for them in a way that is pleasing to God.

She is also one who has shown hospitality. She is not simply concerned with herself or even only her family, but she entertains guests in her home. She reaches out to those in need, whether physical need or spiritual, and much of this will be done in the home and in addition to her raising of children. The wife is multifaceted in her work – single minded in her love and devotion to Christ but multifaceted in how that love for Christ manifests itself in taking care of others that God has put in her life.

She has also washed the feet of the saints. Washing others’ feet was a menial task in the first century, it was the work of a slave. People wore sandals and walked in the dirt and dust and so washing feet was important and done by slaves. This is what Jesus did with His disciples. In John 13 we read of this. Jesus stooped down and became as a slave, a lowly slave and washed all the disciples’ feet, including Judas. When He was done, do you remember what He said to them?

14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14-17)

As ministers of the Lord, we are not to take the most appealing jobs, many times we are to take the most lowly. A widow who will serve in the church is to show a history of a willingness to take sometimes the most lowly of tasks. She doesn’t do it for praise, she does it in humility, as her Lord did.

Next, she should have cared for the afflicted and devoted herself to every good work. She is a caring woman who has compassion on those who are afflicted. She takes an interest in those who are hurting. Afflicted here means those under pressure. She works to lighten their load, lighten their pressure.

Each of these descriptions are those of care, concern, and loyalty. They are absent of pride and self-centeredness. They describe one who will minister well to those around her. She has been diligent and responsible as a younger woman and her godliness will continue in older age for the benefit of the church.

Being a widow must be very hard. Some of you know what it is like. But what a blessing that it can be to others for her to commit her ways unto the Lord and for the benefit of many. None of us know how long we will live. But however long it may be, will we end well? Will we go out serving? Will we minister to the very end? I wonder about myself in that regard. It is easy, and we see this often, for older people to get down and grumpy and so on, and it is understandable as many deal with physical pain and strain and begin to lose some of their independence. But how will we do? Can we trust in God to the end and even serve Him faithfully and joyfully to the end?

Now, after describing the positive and godly path for a widow he now contrasts that by sharing what can happen that is not so good…

11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:11-16)

In these last few verses Paul is saying let the younger widows remarry. The younger widows are not to be enlisted in their special type of ministry which requires full devotion to the church. Under 60 was seen to be still marrying age and those under 60 would possibly have a greater desire of remarriage. And so Paul says let them marry and let them serve their family rather than this unique, wholly committed service in the church.

The concern here, in part, seems to be that a younger woman may start out saying she doesn’t want to remarry and make a commitment to the church and then may back out of that commitment because of her desire to be with a man. And so rather than that happen, Paul is saying just don’t enroll them, let them remarry.

But they need to be doing something productive, otherwise the temptation will be to do nothing of great value. They may be idlers, just going house to house sort of like goofing off, and even gossips and busybodies, saying things that they ought not say.

This is always the problem, really for anyone who does not have specific purpose in life. That is we become lazy and tend to get into trouble, not just women but certainly men too. If you are a parent you know this about your children. If they don’t have things to do, what happens? They get into trouble. It’s interesting, it is really the same with adults! I guess we never grow out of that. We all need to be busily taking care of the responsibilities that God has given to us, working for Him, serving Him. If we don’t we may be like these young widows whom Paul says have strayed after Satan. If we are not focused in our commitment to Christ we will begin to stray, and that straying will be, if it is away from Christ it will be toward Satan. We are to be reaching forward in this faith, not straying toward Satan.

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:16)

We see an order of priority here. Widows are to be first taken care of by family, by relatives. The church is not obligated to first care for widows, her relatives are. But if they are not able, if relatives are not able then the church steps in and meets her needs. That is the order.

Three things I want to say as we end.

The first is simply this: God cares for sufferers. He does this in many ways. For the widow, it is her family and then it is the church.

Secondly, older age is not a time to drop out of serving. We all may have to slow down, but not drop out. Let’s pray that we all finish well in this Christian life for God’s glory. Maybe some of you are planning even now what you will do as you get older, I think that is good. Only God knows what our lives will look like in the future, but are we eager to maintain an attitude of serving our Lord to the very end?

Lastly, as a church we can ask, “Are we committed to caring for widows who have no other support? Are we willing to step in financially, even sacrificially to take care of those that God sends our way?” I hope we are, I hope we can!

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:9-16)