5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 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. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
11 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. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 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 busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
Although Paul tells Timothy not to let others look down upon his youth, nevertheless he is to keep his youth in mind in his dealings with others in the church. He has to lead older men, but he must not forget that the younger are called to respect their elders. All are equal in the Kingdom but not the same. So, if Timothy needs to rebuke an older man he is to do so with gentleness and respect. Order in the church must consider the differences between different groups of people.
“Treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters”. As a young man Timothy is to treat those in the same age group as himself as equals. They are his brothers and sisters, not “the customers” or “the troops” or even “his flock”. They are not pawns to be moved around the board of church activities. Verse 2 adds one thing to the description of Timothy’s treatment of people, and that’s young women, who he is to treat as sisters, “with absolute purity.” This is because of the complication of sexual attraction. Is this a word that could equally apply to dating couples? The way of God’s people is not to be influenced by the cultural norms of dating and romance.
“Treat older women as mothers”. There is no sense here of women being inferior. The church is a place of equality but difference. There is to be a warmth in his relationship with the older women in the church, even as he leads, challenges and rebukes them.
Widows were particularly vulnerable in culture of the day, and the Jewish law made careful provision for them [Deut 14:28,9; 24:17], and Timothy, as the church leader, was to make sure they were cared for if they were really in need [v3]. The first point of care was the biological family [v 4, 8]. The early church went so far in this care for widows that it seem they were even supporting non-believing widows [v 6]. The church was to support a widow only if she had no other means of support, was in need, and if she was godly [v 5 & 6]. The church did not have the resources to set up a universal support programme.
Today there is a new class of widow that Paul did not anticipate – the single parent who has been deserted and left with no support.
The church has an obligation to care for and help support such people in our membership. There is help from social welfare but there are all sorts of needs that aren’t met and for those among us with no family support the church must become that family.
Lord I pray for the widows among us at church who are doing it tough. Show me how I can help. Amen
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’[a] and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’[b] 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.
An elder in New Testament times was much like and elder in the Aboriginal community – not so much an office as an older person recognised for their wisdom and experience. However, Paul appointed elders to lead the church. That means that out of the group of older, wiser people in the church Paul selected some to oversee the community, of those some worked at preaching and teaching. It would be out of the ordinar to appoint a younger person to the position of church leadership, like Paul did with Timothy, and that is why Timothy had problems associated with his youth.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are to be (1) paid and (2) protected, that is the double honour, not necessarily double pay. Paul uses two quotes from “scripture” as he calls it. The interesting thing here is that one quote is from the Old Testament [Deut 25:4] and the second is from the New Testament [Luke 10:7] which indicates that the writings of the New Testament authors were considered Scripture, on equal footing with the Old Testament. [See also 2 Peter 3:16]
How can we give double honour those who labour on our behalf in the church?
We pay those who lead well. In some churches that will mean that those who are gifted and show diligence will be offered a job and be put on the staff team and paid for their labours, or they will be encouraged to study for the ministry. In other cases, they will be paid an honorarium if their work is time-consuming. That is one way of honouring those who lead us. In many churches struggling financially it means that we pay the minister who alone receives a wage, or often a part-time wage. If church members were serious about tithing, however, it would mean that for every 10 full-time wage earners in the congregation they should be able to pay for one full-time worker.
Paul gives another example of honouring those who oversee us: dealing with accusations against elders. Church leaders are easy targets when it comes to accusations and criticisms and should be protected. No accusation should be given any credence unless it is backed up by 2 or 3 witnesses. This is a matter of serious public sin or failure, hence the sue of term “accusation”, rather than mere grumbling. Grumbling against those who oversee us should never occur and we should nip it in the bud when we hear it. It does no honour anyone.
The public reproval is for public sin, because elsewhere we’re told that if we have something against someone, we should take it to them privately [Matthew 18:15-20]. This is a tough call and Paul sets out the serious importance of doing it by his rather incredible charge “in the sight of Jesus Christ and the elect angels.”
How can you encourage those who lead in the church by honouring them? We can ask them how things are going in their ministry and ask for things to pray for. If you are a card-sending person that is a great way of encouraging. We could provide a few days accommodation for a break for them. We could be creative in showing our appreciation for them. Church leadership is a tough role. Only 21% of clergy don’t have an issue with burnout. 56% are on the borderline of burnout and 4% are in extreme burnout. [Source: “burnout in church leaders”]
Loving Father, please look after our church leaders and show me how to encourage them. Amen
21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
Paul’s charge to Timothy is set in the most serious of terms. There can be no greater group of witnesses to it than the one he mentions. In the administration of Paul’s instructions Timothy is to be completely impartial. That would seem to go without saying yet it’s hard not to show favouritism, especially when a friend or supporter or even a family member might be involved. It all goes to the integrity of the overseer. In recent years much has happened to deplete the reservoir of trust the community has in church leaders. Research by Roy Morgan this year indicated that only 30% of the population rated ministers of religion as “high” or “very high” for ethics or honesty. This has fallen from 59% of people in 1996. [Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.]. It’s an appalling situation that the leaders of God’s people are not known for their ethics and integrity. In the past even the enemies of the church have acknowledged the “goodness” of God’s people. Recent failings of high-profile church leaders and the findings of the Royal Commission into child abuse have contributed to this. It shows the need for us not to be hasty in the laying on of hands [v22]. We need to carefully screen those we consider for leadership and to help them to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” [4:16] Maybe we need to encourage our leaders be accountable in some way for these things for their benefit and the benefit of the church by having a mentor or something similar, not as a watchdog but to aid them so that everyone may see their progress in the faith and that they themselves will be saved and also their hearers [4:16]
“Do not share in the sins of others.” We can do that when we cover up sinful behaviour. It’s hard not to go along with others in behaviour that we know is unethical, especially when peer pressure is brough to bear. It can be costly to stand for integrity in the workplace or at uni or in the neighbourhood or even in the family. Wouldn’t it be great if our reputation was such that we weren’t even put in those situations because people know it would be a waste of time to ask?
The comment about Timothy’s stomach is a warm personal touch from the apostle to his charge. The insertion of the comment here seems a little out of place. It is probably because Timothy had given up alcohol in an attempt to grow his godliness through rule keeping. Already in 4:3 & 4 Paul has mentioned those in the church who forbid certain foods etc. in a false attempt to earn God’s approval and so here he is telling Timothy to take a little wine [often used medicinally in New Testament times] for the sake of his stomach ills and not to bend to any “Don’t touch” rules.
What do you take away from today’s passage? Is it the stern warning about showing favouritism? Is it the decision to encourage our church leaders? Is it the determination to pursue godliness and integrity?
God of all truth, help me to persevere in godliness. Show me how to encourage those who lead us. Amen
24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden for ever.
Paul continues his theme of godliness and makes the point that no sin will go unnoticed. Some people’s sins are so obvious and notorious that they precede them, as it were, like a bow wave. Their reputation is known before they are. “Oh, he’s the man who …….”; “she’s that woman that ………”. The sins of others are hidden, or secret, but they will follow in their wake to judgement. We cannot look down on those with notorious sin because all will be revealed on the last day, and we will be seen for the sinners that we are. The important distinction is between the forgiven sinner and the unforgiven. What a glorious gospel we have!
Likewise, says Paul, there are good deeds that are very public and others that will never be acknowledged this side of heaven. Mostly good deeds are pretty evident, but even those that are not will be lauded by our Father in Heaven on the last day. In fact, the Bible encourages us to keep our good deeds quiet. Jesus says, “Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” [Matthew Ch. 6]
I still remember a sermon many years ago when the speaker pointed out that “secrecy safeguards sincerity.” The best way to make sure that your good deeds are not done for the wrong reasons is to do them secretly, wherever possible. For instance, people and companies cannot claim to be altruistic when they ask for naming rights on the thing they are supporting, unless they would still support the cause if they weren’t acknowledged, otherwise it purely a business decision.
One of the great occurrences in church life is for a good deed to be done secretly and be found out by accident, so that we can celebrate the deed and encourage it as a model for others.
Not even good deeds done in secret and never found out, will go unnoticed by God [Matthew 6:4 above].
Why not look out for a good deed you can do today that will be a secret between you and the Father?
God of justice, help me to be like you, full of good deeds and love for others. Give me an opportunity to do something good for someone today. Amen
6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.
Why is Paul so accepting of slavery? We don’t know for sure, because he doesn’t tell us, but we do know that he saw slave-trading as a sin [1 Tim 1:10], and neither did he approve of slavery [Philemon]. He told slaves that if they could they should get their freedom [1 Cor 7:21] However, Paul didn’t address political issues of his day head on, such as the emancipation of women, the practice of exposing unwanted babies or domestic violence, rather he encouraged personal attitudes of godliness in all these areas. The world would change as individuals changed. It is impossible to honour Christ and keep slaves. If a Christian slave owner read these words of Paul, that he or she is to be devoted to the welfare of their slaves as fellow believers, then there is little choice but the free them. This has proven to be true as Christians have been, and still are on the forefront of the fight against slavery, as they have in other political areas.
It is not one’s situation in life that concerns the believer, but how we live in that situation. If we are primarily concerned about living to honour God, then we can do that in whatever situation we find ourselves. [1 Cor 7:17-24]. The more difficult the situation the more opportunity there is to glorify God. [2 Cor 12:7-10] What glory was brough to God, for instance, through the godly suffering of Job [Job 2:3]!
If you are in a difficult situation and there is no way out, then look for ways to glorify God in that situation. If there is a way out that is godly, then of course we should take it, but if not, we are to bring glory to our Jesus by the way that we handle it; without bitterness, with joy in the Lord, with gentleness of spirit, with love to our enemies, with peace and contentment. It’s a tough call, isn’t it, but it’s for that reason that God has given us his Spirit.
How are you going to glorify God in difficult situations?
Abba Father, I know that I’m to glorify you in all I do. Help me to find joy in doing that. Amen