1 Timothy 5
1Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,
2the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Timothy, a young man, would inevitably have to confront men who were older than he was as well as older women and younger women. Paul’s instruction was that he approach the older men as fathers, giving them proper respect and taking a tone of grace, gentleness, and reverence. He still must say the truth, but his manner must convey that he respects their age. This will make the older men far more likely to listen to him and respond graciously to him. He is to treat the younger men as brothers, not approaching them as if he is on a power trip, flaunting his position of authority. He is to approach them as brothers in Christ, giving them respect as equals and the type of kindness that would be due a family member. The older women are to be treated as mothers, given the proper respect and tenderness. He is to treat the younger women as sisters in all purity, not putting himself in a vulnerable position while doing ministry.
3Honor widows who are widows indeed;
4but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.
The church which Timothy oversees is to honor widows who fall within certain categories, which Paul is going to describe. If a widow has children or grandchildren, these are to be responsible for caring for the widows, making a return of love to them given that they had raised them and cared for them as they grew up. The family is not to pass on responsibility for caring for a widow as if they can turn her over to the church as a sort of welfare system. Honoring parents and family involves caring for widows as family, and this is honoring to God. The church is not to enable family betraying family.
5Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.
6But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.
7Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach.
8But 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.
The widows who have no family to care for them should keep their hope fixed on God and spending time in prayer day and night. Like the single person, the widow has extra time to serve the Lord. She is not to give herself to empty pleasure, for this is to be dead while she lives, bearing no fruit and accomplishing nothing of value for the kingdom. The widow is not to check out on life, but she is to view this time of life as an opportunity for service and to find love and family in the people of God. She must keep her focus on God and others, rather than self and her situation. And, as Paul will explain, the church will take care of her needs. Timothy is to teach and exhort widows to view this time of life as ministry rather than as boredom and time for fleshly, wasteful pleasure. In a society where the women had few rights as compared to the men, it was imperative that the men see to it that the needs of their families were met, particularly in the event of their own death. To not look forward to the future and do what they could to see that their surviving family members would be alright was utterly irresponsible and so bad and reprehensible that it was as if they were pagans and not even saved. Since even the unsaved would be likely to take measures to look after their own households, the Christian certainly must keep these expectations. Again, Paul’s teaching is that the family is responsible for taking care of widows, and only if they fail or are somehow unable, can a widow be considered for the widow’s list.
9A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man,
10having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
In order to be on the list, a widow must be at least sixty years old. She must have been the wife of only one man, and she must have been known among the church as one who did good to others. She must have raised children if at all possible, she must have been a hospital person even to strangers, she must have been willing to be a servant (feet-washing was normal practice given that walking was standard transportation and sandals standard footwear, but it was a humble task nonetheless), she must have helped those in need as she was able, and she must have been active in good works and service in her fellowship and community. The bottom line is that the church doesn’t need widows being supported from the money given to God if it is not going to help women whose lives have been characterized by the work of God and which will presumably continue to be such.
11But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married,
12thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge.
13At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.
14Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
15for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.
Younger widows (those under sixty) were not supposed to be on the list. If they were to join the list, they would, in effect, be making a pledge to be servants of God to the church and community. They were not to be lazy and go around as gossips, now that their needs were taken care of. But if for some reason they were on the list and then decided to get married, they would have broken this understanding that they were serving the church on support from the church. Typically, these younger women who still have a lot of life and energy in them and who feel strong sensual desires and long to get married, too often end up just being busybodies (meddlers) and gossips, rather than doing the ministry which they were supposed to be doing. Thus, Paul sets the age limit at sixty. It is not as if he is abandoning them to the street. If getting work was possible, they could do some work to avoid the idleness, but Paul’s desire was that they get married. Their husbands would be the primary breadwinners so that they could bear children and maintain a home. Children and keeping house will keep anybody busy and less likely to be lazy and fall into sin. Thus, the best thing for a younger woman was to get married again and bring up children, thereby giving Satan no free and easy opportunity to lead these young women astray. As it was, some were getting a free ride from the church, and they had already turned aside to follow the devil, being lazy, gossiping, and speaking of evil things. Thus, it was important that Timothy refuse to put them on the list and encourage them to work (if such was possible) or get married (the better option in Paul’s estimation- 1 Corinthians 7:9).
16If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
Some women (perhaps widowed, perhaps not) would have been in a position of wealth, and they could have supported some of the widows so that the church would not have to be burdened. If somebody with means could support some of the widows, this would save the church resources that could be used elsewhere, particularly for those who were widowed who had none to take them on as dependents.
17The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
18For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
Elders who lead and shepherd the church well should be given great respect from the fellowship, and they need to be paid in proportion to their service. They should certainly get paid more than those who only help with the church part-time. Those who do the study and labor for the preaching and teaching responsibilities should be particularly honored because of the importance of the task of exhorting and teaching sound doctrine. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to emphasize that those who do the work of the ministry should be compensated for it so that they are not trying to work a full job and minister full time. They should not have to be muzzled by the worries and strenuous efforts required to pay the bills. Rather, they should be able to put all of their energy into preaching, teaching, and shepherding. They should be confident that they will be able to get paid such that they can take care of their families and not be “worse than an unbeliever” (5:8). Paul also quotes Luke 10:7 to explain that that those who labor in the Lord’s work should get paid for it. This is interesting because it affirms that even as the New Testament was being completed, the writings that were in hand were considered inspired and the very Word of God.
19Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.
20Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
21I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
Timothy as an elder was not to take action regarding an accusation brought against a serving elder unless that person could bring another witness or two. Then the matter should be investigated. If the person is indeed found to be in sin, then Timothy must confront him of his sin. If he still does not repent, then he must be cut off from fellowship, being rebuked publicly in front of the entire assembly (Matthew 18:15-17). The purpose for this is so that all will take sin seriously and be afraid of the consequences of sinning. This also is what the sinning brother needs so that his flesh can be destroyed all the while preserving his soul (1 Corinthians 5:5). Paul adamantly exhorts Timothy to be impartial in his decision making when it comes to church discipline. He needs to be sure of the facts, and he must not let his feelings or bias get in the way. It would be tragic to let a person get away with sin and to overlook it, and it would be likewise tragic to rebuke a person who was truly innocent.
22Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
This process of church discipline, particularly in the case of elders, must be done thoroughly, without partiality, and with patience. There is no need to move too hastily when something so serious is on the line. An entire fellowship and even community can reel to see a pastor or elder accused of sin. Things must be done rightly, gently, and with the goal of pursuing the truth and the restoration of the sinning brother, if he has indeed sinned. If Timothy was to rebuke a brother too hastily and be wrong in the process, he would be guilty of wrong judgment and false witness. For Timothy’s reputation and testimony, it is essential that he stay free from sinning, this included.
23No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Timothy apparently had some stomach problems and other ailments, perhaps related. Though it is wise for those in leadership not to drink lest a weaker brother could be stumbled (Romans 14:21, 1 Corinthians 8:13), this was a case of medical necessity. It was more important for Timothy to take some wine for the sake of his health and ministry than to concern himself about stumbling a weaker brother. Others could come to understand his medical needs and therefore why he chose to drink wine. He was not to use the wine to escape reality and get drunk, but he was to use it as a clean alternative to the less sterile water.
24The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.
Paul makes the point to Timothy that he needs to be wise, patient, and discerning, seeking the Lord for wisdom. There will be instances where sin is obvious and plain for all to see. It is not difficult to know how to proceed in such a case. What is more difficult to deal with are situations where sin is secret and a person is slow to confess. For some people, they are able to conceal a sin until the judgment. But whether sin is obvious before judgment or only upon judgment, there will be a reckoning for our deeds, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). We as believers won’t face God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), but we may lose rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Unbelievers, on the other hand, store up increasing wrath and judgment as their lives go on (Revelation 21:8).
25Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
Good deeds are more obvious and evident because they are generally done publicly toward others. Yet there are times when good is done secretly such that only God hears and knows, and there are times and places for this (Matthew 6:1-6). At all times and in all things, we are not to do good to appear self-righteous before men but to honor God. These secret good works will be revealed when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and there we will be recompensed.