The Word This Week

1 Timothy 5:1...

How the church treats those who cannot help themselves becomes an important part of church life because it represents how Jesus treats those who cannot help themselves.

Paul brings up widows in this regard because in their culture widows represent the most helpless members of the Body of Christ. Not only were widows alone – and loneliness is a very powerful emotion – but in many cases they were unable to take care of their practical and physical needs because women in that time were not capable of entering the general workforce.

Widows, therefore, became an interesting example. Our hearts go out to widows because we know the kinds of emotional stresses they are dealing with. When our hearts go out, it becomes easy for other things to flow as well. (Perhaps too easy, given the fact resources are often limited in The Church.)

So, employing widows as an example, Paul takes us through a number of steps the church at Ephesus is to employ to qualify the widows the church is actually to take responsibility for pertaining to meeting their practical and physical needs.

We know this handling of the needs of widows had previously become an issue in the church at Jerusalem, as we read in Acts 6 the distribution of food to widows had caused complaint, as it seemed the Hellenist widows were not receiving the same care as the Hebrew widows. This issue was resolved by appointing deacons to make sure the food was distributed equally – an important step in the history of The Church.

This was an admission there needed to be an establishment of priorities in The Church, and that the study and teaching of God’s Word and the prayers of the elders needed to also be accompanied by a focus on the needs of those who could not help themselves. To help those who could not help themselves was also established as a highly spiritual calling.

Which brings us back to Paul’s qualifications of the widows who were actually considered to be widows – as far as the church’s responsibility for their care was concerned. This is an important lesson, and it does not apply uniquely to widows, but to all those who may present themselves as being unable to care for their needs. Further examination is needed on a case-by-case basis to assure this is so.

It is fascinating Paul moves directly to the care of elders in this regard, especially concerning those who have given themselves completely to the study and teaching of God’s Word. When it comes to handling the resources of The Church, it is Jesus’ desire there be those who become full-time in the teaching ministry of the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those who do so receive an income from those being fed – that the rich feeding of the Word of God may continue unabated.

Pastor Bill