1 Timothy 5
E W Rogers, Oxford
The Church's Personnel - their Duties. The church is made up of young and old, male and female, and Paul now gives Timothy instruction as to how to deal with each. He is not to rebuke an elder, that is, a man of years (not necessarily an overseer) but to exhort him as a father. He is to respect his years. He should regard the younger men as his brethren and deal with them on that level. The elder women he should treat as mothers, and the younger women as sisters always recognizing the necessity for avoiding any impropriety.
Paul has a good deal to say about widows, of which there were many as was the case when the Lord was here; for example, Anna, the widow of Nain, and the widow noted for her two mites, and perhaps also Mary the mother of the Lord was later a widow. Widowhood in those days was attended with many difficulties not now existent in a "welfare state" which makes certain provisions for such. All these directions, therefore, in this chapter should be read in the light of the present existing conditions.
It is to be feared that present-day conditions have engendered in the minds of many younger people an unhealthy disregard for their parents and senior relatives, assuming that the state has relieved them of their moral obligations. But the requital of parents is a principle to be observed always, for that is acceptable in the sight of God. It is the children's duty to look after their living needy forbears. But in the case of those who are "widows indeed", that is, women bereft of their husbands and devoid of family help, these are to be honoured by the church, such honour including monetary assistance. Nevertheless, the relatives should remember that if they fail to make provision for such, they are worse than the heathen who, at least, do care for the old folk. In addition they have given a practical denial of the faith they profess.
Everything was to be done decently and in order. A list was to be kept of these widows, but only those with certain qualifications. All must be over sixty years of age; they should have been married only once. Like Phebe, they should be noted for good works; like Lois and Eunice, they should have brought up children; like Lydia, they should have entertained strangers; like Mary, they should have washed the disciples' feet; like Dorcas, they should have relieved the afflicted; and like Persis, they should have followed every good work. But none of this is to be construed so that those who have widows in their family circles may evade their responsibilities; they should relieve them and the church should not be burdened, 1 Tim. 5.16.
The enrolment seems to be for the purpose of receiving church relief, though those thus qualified would doubtless be willing to lend a helping hand in church affairs as was necessary and desirable. Like Anna, they do not have their eye on the visible and material; they continue in supplications and prayers day and night to God on whom they have set their hope, v. 5.
But in these days of the welfare state monetary help is not the only assistance needed by those who are widows indeed. The sympathetic and loving care of younger ones will intuitively discern those things which are necessary, and which they can supply, to make up for the deficiencies of the life of the widow or the lonely.
As to younger widows, seeing that there is always the likelihood of their remarriage, and/or the possibility of their earning a living for themselves, they are to be refused admission to this "roll". Time heals many wounds, and while in the initial stages of their widowhood they recognized God as their only support, yet as time wore on they would desire to remarry and have a more visible support. Were they to be put on the "roll" they would learn to be idle, and Satan finds something for idle hands to do. Some would fill their time with gossip, visiting, and becoming busybodies with all its ill-spoken accompaniments. Paul's wish for such is that they should remarry, establish families, exercise themselves in their proper sphere, the home, and thus avoid giving occasion for reproach. Paul knew cases where they had already "turned aside after Satan", v. 15. We may observe that now-a-days there are ample avenues of appropriate service for women whose domestic duties do not occupy all their time. Such things as Women's Meetings, Sunday School classes, Old Folk visitation, babysitting to enable mothers to get out to meetings, and the like, come to mind.
From verse 17 to 25 Paul has chiefly in mind elders, that is, overseers. Those that rule well are to be counted worthy of double honour, specially those that labour in word and teaching. Verse 18 clearly shows that this honour has to do with material support. In this connection, see Deuteronomy 25. 4; 24.15; 1 Corinthians 9.9; Luke 10.7 (this latter citation shows that Luke's Gospel was regarded as Scripture). The ox is to be allowed his nibble when at his work; the labourer is to be rewarded for his work. In the case of churches which rightly reject a one-man ministry this principle is oftentimes overlooked. This ought not to be, for the church should re-imburse those who at the cost of time, money, energy, shoe leather, and so on, give themselves to caring for the saints.
It would appear that verse 19 specially has in mind an overseer. The word "elder" here is used in that sense. Because by reason of their work they can the more readily become the target of ill-minded persons, an accusation against them is not to be accepted unless it be adequately attested, Deut. 19. 15. In the case of proven guilt such are to be reproved in the presence of all the church so that the other elders as well as the church at large may fear. Paul solemnly enjoins Timothy to do these things without prejudice and without partiality (treating any preferentially above others).
Then, again, as to the appointment and recognition of elders, Timothy is enjoined not to lay hands suddenly on any one. He may find, if he does so, that he will implicate himself with their sins. Some men's sins are self-evident going before into judgment, but in the case of others they take time to reveal themselves and, therefore, Timothy might unwarily be caught. He must see to it that he does not become involved in the wrong-doing of others. At all costs he must keep himself pure. He must remember that time will tell; it will bring to light a man's sins, and it will bring to light a man's good works; he must not act precipitately.
Sound judgment is largely dependent upon a healthy body. Therefore the apostolic advice to Timothy was that he should use (note the verb) a little (note the quantity) wine for his stomach's sake and chronic weaknesses (note the object).