3 Honor widows who are widows indeed; 4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and tomake some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now 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. 6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. 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.
Paul is addressing a specific issue in Ephesus concerning widows. From what I have learned, the city had established a sort of welfare system to care for widows. As usually happens in any society, people try to take advantage of a system that provides freely to a certain people group to help them out. Throughout the bible, we find that widows and orphans tug at God’s heart the most. So what do they do now? They instituted a program for widows that is being taken advantage of and is now suffering because of it. They don’t want to shut the program down because then the widows get nothing. They don’t want to continue to allow others to take advantage of the program because it takes away from those who are truly in need and it also enables the laziness of those who don’t really need the help. Paul is giving direct advice to a specific situation. I find it interesting that thousands of years later we are encountering similar situations across the world.
In my next post, we will learn more about the “defining details” of a widow at that time in Paul’s direct address of the problem. In the first 3 verses, Paul gives a clear and simple definition. A widow is a woman who has nobody to care for her. Paul actually charges children and grandchildren in verse 4 to care for their parents. I believe this is in line with the commandment “honor thy father and thy mother.” Paul is applying it to a current situation. Did you notice the word piety in that verse? The word is meant to represent “reverence to God.” Here, Paul is talking about reverence to God should be evident through one’s taking care of their parents. In 5 Paul is explaining that a “true widow” is one who has nobody but God in her life.
Verse 6 seems like a condemning verse, doesn’t it? In reading it, I felt like Paul was telling Timothy not to help those who are not of the faith. Clearly this program is run by the church (if Timothy has a hand in it), but wouldn’t they want to be evangelistic about it? Cutting off “outsiders” is actually counter to how Paul operated. Let’s reread verse 6, shall we? He actually doesn’t say anything about belief, being a member of the church, or anything of the sort. I believe his point is to remind Timothy that a woman that isn’t devoted to God has bigger problems than physical needs and it should be addressed. The emphasis in this passage, however, is upon the family of the widow. The widow is addressed in the next part of Paul’s letter.
Families need to care for their own. Paul uses some strong language to make his point: one who doesn’t care for their family is worse than an unbeliever. I think back to Jesus’ teaching about our Heavenly Father who wants to pour out His gifts upon us when He says that even unbelievers love and care for their children. It also works in the opposite direction. People who are not filled with the perfect love of Christ care for their elderly parents when the situation arises. Therefore, there is no excuse for us not to do the same. If we behave in a manner counter to this principle, we are betraying our faith, our belief, and the teachings that we claim to follow.
How do you care for your own? Do you reflect honor and love in your dealings with your family? Yes, even the difficult ones! Paul doesn’t say children and grandchildren should only take care of the good parents. How can you do this better today?