“Who Cares? The Church!”
(1 Timothy 5:1-16)
Series: Reality Check: Keeping it Real at FBC
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
- Take God’s Word and open to 1 Timothy, chapter 5.
We’re making our way, verse-by-verse, through the book of 1 Timothy. It’s a very practical letter written by the Apostle Paul to the young Timothy who is acting as pastor of a church in Ephesus. Paul is passing along to Timothy helpful counsel and advice that we discover not only helps him in the church of Ephesus, but it helps us in the church of Henderson.
- Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,
2 older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity.
3 Honor widows who are really widows.
I remember some time back seeing a sign for a church that really wanted to communicate its care for others. I like looking at funny church signs, you know, the marquis that proudly stand in front of so many churches, often displaying a weekly quote of wisdom of some such. I’ve seen all kinds of these signs and people will send me ones on the internet. And some of them are quite funny.
But this one sign was in front of a church that really wanted to demonstrate its care for other people. And so they put this message on the sign to show their care, but the message communicated quite the opposite of what they intended. Now some of you will need to think about this for a moment. But picture this sign. It read, “Don’t let your worries kill you—let the church help!” Now they did not mean to say that they wanted to help kill anyone, but that’s the way it came across! “Don’t let your worries kill you—let the church help.” Of course, what they meant to communicate was, “We’re a church who cares about you. We’re here for you,” and so forth.
The passage this morning teaches that the church cares for people. Paul gives us actions to take to show that we care for others. Let me give you these right now. First,
I. We must be Considerate (1-2)
In the first two verses the Bible says that there is a certain way we’re to show respect for one another, to regard one another. We’re to be considerate to one another, treating people respectfully. Remember that Paul is writing to the young Timothy and he’s telling him how to treat people in the congregation there. And what Paul says to Timothy applies to us as well. First he says,
1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father,
Paul has been writing to Timothy about his need to be an example to the congregation as he gives attention to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine. Timothy is charged with the important task of preaching the truth and confronting error. Confronting error means that sometimes you need to deal with this one-on-one in the church. Remember, Paul had said back in the opening verses of the letter, “Charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1:3).”
But here Paul tells Timothy how to address people when he confronts sin and error. He says in verse 1, “Do not rebuke an older man,” that is, “Do not harshly, sternly, and inconsiderately chide a man older than you but rather,” he says, “exhort him as a father.” That is, “Treat the older men in the congregation as you would your own father.” How do you treat your father? With respect. With consideration. Then he says treat,
younger men as brothers,
Now I never had any brothers. I have two sisters, an older and a younger. I’m one of those problematic middle-children. But I never had a brother so when Michele and I got married I asked God to give us two sons so I could watch them beat up on each other. God answered my prayer! But those of you guys with brothers know what it’s like. You may beat each other up and razz one another, but there is a love for one another, a sticking up for one another. Paul says, “Timothy, be considerate. Treat people in the church respectfully. Treat older men as you would treat your father and younger men as you would treat your brother.” Then he says in verse 2 treat:
2 older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity.
Be considerate to older women in the congregation, treating them as you would your own mother. How do you treat your mother? You call her. You care for her. You listen to her. You love her. And treat younger women as sisters, with all purity. We touched on this last week as we dealt with Timothy’s need to be sexually pure. The Phillips translation has, “Treat the younger women as sisters, and no more.”
This command is especially important for pastors today in our sexually charged American culture. Temptation is everywhere. And pastors and ministers are wise to avoid even the slightest hint of impropriety. This is the reason I counsel members of the opposite sex with the office door open and then only for a limited time, 3-4 sessions. This is why I try never to travel alone with any member of the opposite sex.
But these are helpful admonitions not only Timothy as pastor of the church there, but to all persons in the church. We must consider one another as family, as blood relations. We do not lust for one another, but we love one another. Some of us didn’t have the best of fathers, but we have fathers in the faith, fathers in this spiritual family. And maybe we didn’t have the best of mothers, but we have godly, spiritual mothers in our congregation. So if you came from a good family, then you’re blessed with two families, your physical family and your spiritual family. And if you came from a messed-up and goofed-up family, well don’t whine about it, but praise God you’re now a member of the family of God! And treat your spiritual family with respect. Be considerate. Here’s the second way we show we’re a church who cares, not only must we be considerate, but secondly:
II. We must be Compassionate (3-10)
3 Honor widows who are really widows.
Now from this point through verse 16 Paul talks about a specific problem particular to the church in Ephesus during the first century. He talks about those who are widows in the congregation.
Of course a widow is a woman whose husband has died. And “widows who are really widows (v.3),” are those women whose husbands died leaving them no means of financial support. And Paul says that the church shows it cares by “honoring” widows. The word “honor” here means more than respect, but compassionately providing financial assistance and practical care.
God shows His compassion for widows throughout the Scriptures. He says in Exodus 22:22, “Do not take advantage of the widow” and in Deuteronomy 14 He says that farmers were to provide from their crops for the widows. In Luke 7 Jesus showed compassion for the widow of Nain by raising her son from the dead. In Luke 21 he spoke favorably of the widow who, in giving her offering of two small copper coins, gave all that she had. And in John 19, as Jesus was on His way to die He entrusted to John the care of His very own widowed mother. God shows His compassion for widows and so should we.
At the same time, however, the church should not be in the habit of providing financial assistance and care if there were family, physical family, to care for the widow. Verse 4:
4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.
The church may actually do a disservice if it steps-in and provides financial assistance and care to a widow who has family. Why? Because it is the family’s responsibility to care for the widow. God says in the 5th Commandment, Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother.” So the church should not just be handing-out money to widows. The church helps children and grandchildren do what they’re supposed to be doing, honoring their mother.
Paul says children and grandchildren learn to show piety at home by caring for their mother and grandmother. They show piety, they show the true measure of their faith, by caring for their mom. In this sense, they “repay their parents.”
I have a friend back in Georgia I was visiting with a few years ago. Ron had regularly cut the grass of an older woman who lived nearby. He did it for free. But Ron got tired of doing it because he was being taken advantage of. The older woman had a son who lived nearby but never cut his mother’s grass. We were there visiting with Ron and Lynn a couple years ago when the son’s wife or girlfriend came by to ask Ron to keep cutting the grass. Ron mentioned that this woman had a son. The girl said, “Well, he’s so busy.” I just remember Ron saying, “You’re too busy for momma, you’re too busy.”
That is the sense here in verse 4. How can Christians show that they love God and that they believe in honoring their parents—when they don’t honor their parents? Paul says children and grandchildren are to “repay their parents.” This, he says, is “good and acceptable to God.”
As they are growing up, children are on the receiving end. They take and take and take. But when they get older they are then to give and give and give. And so a son or a daughter cares for their parents in their elderly years, inviting them to stay with them or live with them, if necessary. I’m looking forward one day to going up to my boys when I’m bent over and crotchety. And I’ll open my hands and say, “You’re turn!”
My older sister emailed this thing the other day to Michele. Let me read part of it to you. It’s an idea for “The Next Survivor Series.” Some of you have seen the Survivor television program where these people are on an island and they have to survive being voted off the island. This series illustrates how mothers survive. Here’s how it works:
Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks…Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes. There is no fast food. Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of “pretend” bills with not enough money. In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week…Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time–no emailing…Each man must also
take each child to a doctor’s appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment…They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:00 am. A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child’s birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor’s name…Also the child’s weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child’s favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, and so forth. Then it says, the last man wins only if he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment’s notice. And if the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right to be called Mother!
“If any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” Now, what of those widows who have no children? Verse 5:
5 Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.
6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.
7 And these things command, that they may be blameless.
So Paul says there are some widows in the church who really are in need. But that alone does not qualify them for financial assistance and practical care. She must, verse 5, trust in God and continue in supplications and prayers night and day. She is a committed believer. She is not someone who, verse 6, “lives in pleasure,” someone who lives like an unbeliever. This is someone who, says Paul in verse 6, “is dead while she lives.” She is alive physically, but dead spiritually. The church should not be just handing out money to people such as this.
Warren Wiersbe, in his very practical commentary, writes this:
“It has been my experience in three different pastorates that godly widows are ‘spiritual powerhouses’ in the church. They are the backbone of the prayer meetings. They give themselves to visitation, and they swell the ranks of teachers in the Sunday school.” Then, he adds, “It has also been my experience that, if a widow is not godly, she can be a great problem to the church. She will demand attention, complain about what the younger people do, and often ‘hang on the telephone’ and gossip. (Of course, it is not really ‘gossip.’ She only wants her friends to be able to ‘pray more intelligently’ about these matters!).”
Paul says the church should not be handing out money to widows whose lives are not “blameless,” (v.7). And again, here is a reminder to the physical family to care for their parents, verse 8:
8 But 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.
That’s a good memory verse for every man in this congregation. Men, the most masculine thing you can do is to provide for your family. It will engender respect from your wife and children. If you don’t provide for your family, the Bible says you have “denied the faith” and are “worse than an unbeliever.” Now more about who are true widows in the church, verse 9:
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man,
10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
So there was a particular problem unique to the first-century church at Ephesus that required the listing of widows in need of financial assistance. Paul says that in getting together the list, not just any widow qualified, but those who were faithful to their husbands, well-reported for good works, etc.
Now a fundamental principle here in the text is that it is the family who is to care one another and then, in the absence of family, the church is to care for one another. We read nothing here of an expectation of the government to care for one another. Now, we may thank God for certain governmental programs that aid the elderly, but those governmental programs are there primarily because the family and the church stopped doing their job. We need to reclaim the responsibility of caring for one another and quit expecting the government and political leaders to do what we’re supposed to be doing ourselves.
We must be considerate and we must be compassionate. Thirdly,
III. We must be Cautious (11-16)
Paul has already hinted at the need for caution in our showing care for one another. Not just anyone is to receive financial aid and practical care. And he does so again here:
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry,
12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.
13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.
We can’t charge Paul with being vague and evasive here, can we? Paul says we must be cautious in showing our care. We may hinder people from growing spiritually by just giving them a safety net of financial assistance and practical care. Paul says avoid being in the habit of providing financial assistance and practical care to younger widows. They may become merely takers and wander away from the Lord, becoming involved in the gadding about from one place to another, being “gossips and busybodies.” Turn on the TV in the afternoon and see if much of afternoon programming does not target women such as these. The church must be cautious, knowing when to say no.
Interestingly, Paul says that the solution for younger widows is that they marry:
14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15 For some have already turned aside after Satan.
If the first-century church was inundated with widows, the 21st century church is inundated with single moms. And the solution for single moms today is the same solution for younger widows of yesterday. They should marry godly Christian men, not just any men, but godly Christian men. This means that we need godly Christian men who will love and care for a woman who needs a godly husband and whose children need a godly father.
And then again, this summary statement about the responsibility for the family to step-in and care for widows.
16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
So who cares? The church cares. But the church cares only in a way that helps the family show that the family cares.
Now as you stand let me say this in closing. I was struck this week by the statement there in verse 6 about the careless widow who lives for pleasure. The Bible says she is “dead while she lives.” This is a picture of spiritual death; to be alive physically but dead spiritually. Last Wednesday night we drove up to Omaha to see my grandmother. And we spent Wednesday evening in St. Charles, Missouri. We stayed in a hotel that was practically adjacent to a casino that was all lit up like a Christmas tree. Michele and I took a brief walk outside and we walked in the vicinity of that casino and watched all the people who were going to that casino. Many were dressed-up; some were hardly dressed at all. Cigarette smoke was everywhere and alcohol all over the place. People stood in line waiting to get in here and there. But what struck me was the deep emptiness and the dark, despair I sensed in that area. Honestly, I’m not trying to sound dramatic. I actually sensed spiritual death, people who are alive physically, but dead spiritually, people who, as Paul says in our text, are “dead while they live.” This is the condition of every one of us until we come to Christ. We must receive Him as our Lord and Savior and then we may cross over from death to life. Receive Christ today.
- Let’s pray.
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