The Pastoral Care of the Aged, the Young, the Widows. 1 Tim. 5,1-8.

V.1. Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren, v.2. the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity. V.3. Honor widows that are widows indeed. V.4. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents; for that is good and acceptable before God. V.5. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. V.6. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. V.7. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. V.8. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Having given his young assistant various rules of conduct concerning his own person, the apostle now delivers certain precepts to him regarding his conduct toward the members of the various stations in the congregation. He instructs Timothy first of all about the manner in which he should administer certain exhortations: An older man do not scold, but admonish him like a father, the younger men like brothers, the older women like mothers, the younger like sisters, with all purity. Although the tendency toward certain sins varies with the age, it remains true that transgressions of God’s holy will occur in every station of life, and that the number of years which a person has lived have little influence upon the activity of the evil nature, certain sins even having a tendency to become ruling sins in later life, if a Christian has not always battled against them with might and main. It becomes the duty of the faithful pastor, therefore, occasionally to administer reproofs from the Word of God. Much depends, in that case, upon the manner in which this unpleasant, but necessary duty is carried out. If it is an older man whose transgression comes into consideration, the reproof should not take the form of harsh censure, of severe objurgation, of violent scolding, in spite of the fact that many sins are peculiarly offensive if committed by the aged. There is no conflict of duties here. As teacher of the congregation the minister is obliged to apply the necessary reproof on the basis of the Word of God. But since, according to the Fourth Commandment, the honoring of older persons is demanded, the admonition must be made with respect and reverence. The aged man that has sinned should rather be exhorted, as a loving son would speak to his father whom he perceives to have fallen into some offense. If younger men are in need of reproof, this should not be administered in a spirit of superiority and lordliness, but with the fine tact that makes use of brotherly well-wishing, not, however, with a patronizing, condescending air. Toward older women that stood in need of correction Timothy was to assume the same attitude of respect as toward older men. While showing all due respect for their hoary heads, he must carry out the work of his office with all earnestness. The most difficult cases might be those of younger women, where there is always danger of misunderstanding. Toward these Timothy should therefore assume the role of brother, applying the Word of God with all earnestness and avoiding even the faintest suspicion of an interest which is not compatible with the purity demanded by the Sixth Commandment.

The apostle now inserts a special paragraph concerning the station of widows, whose treatment in the congregations had offered some difficulties from the very beginning: Honor widows that really are widows. The word which the apostle here uses is not to be confined to the care for the bodily maintenance, but includes the entire respectful treatment which the Lord demands toward older persons in the Fourth Commandment. This respect will, as a matter of course, be shown also in actual deeds of kindness, in providing for their livelihood whenever that seems necessary. At the same time the apostle is careful to define the term which he uses by stating that he has reference to such women as are really widows, as belong into the class of such persons for whom the Fourth Commandment demands respect, Ps. 68, 5; Job 1, 16; Prov. 15, 25.

That Paul here has special reference to widows that are absolutely alone in the world, and thus have no one to give them the honor and the care which they ought to have, is shown by his explanation: But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety at home and to return full compensation to the parents; for this is acceptable before God. In case a woman that is a widow still has children or offspring in the wider sense, including nephews and grandchildren, living, these relatives have a duty to perform in her behalf, a duty which devolves upon them through the Fourth Commandment, that of providing for the maintenance of their aged relative with all respect. This duty they should learn first, rather than expect the congregation to make provision for such as are forsaken by their own flesh and blood. In this way the children show piety, they practice religion in the proper manner, and they return, at least in some measure, some compensation which they owe the mother or grandmother. Such behavior is in accordance with the will of God, it is acceptable to Him, it finds favor in His sight.

Having shown what widows do not properly come under the heading “widows indeed,” which ones are not included among those for whom the congregation must provide, he now describes one that is bereft of all human assistance: But the really forlorn widow has her hope set on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. Here is a brief, but very fitting description of a Christian widow as she should be. That she is without a provider among men, that she is utterly forsaken and alone, this fact commends her to the care of the congregation as a matter of course. Such cases are met with, also in our days, where some poor widow has lost both husband and children, and is gradually forsaken also by such as were formerly her friends. It is then that the power of the Christian religion, of her faith in God, exerts itself. She has set her hope and trust in God, her confidence in the Lord of her salvation is unshaken. To Him she therefore turns in continual trusting prayer and supplication; she casts her cares upon Him who is the Father of the fatherless and the God of the widows, who provides for all their wants in His own manner. A widow whom this description fits, who has the example of Anna in the Temple before her continually, is herewith commended to the loving, honoring care of the congregation.

A widow of the opposite kind is also sketched by the apostle: She, however, that indulges in voluptuousness is dead while she lives. Here is a widow that has cast faith and a good conscience overboard and yields to the temptation to lead a life of sin and shame. The apostle describes her conduct as an indulging in dissipation, voluptuousness, whereby all chastity, decency, and shame is trodden under foot; for such a woman deliberately uses the charms of her sex to allure men, her object being to gain the means for a life of ease and pleasure. The apostle’s verdict upon such a one is that she is dead while she is living. This temporal life she is indeed still possessing, - that she is enjoying to the limit, - but she has lost the one true life, the life in and with God; she is lying in spiritual death, whose end is eternal damnation.

No wonder that St. Paul adds the remark, for the sake of these widows as well as for the relatives of such as were in need: These things set up as a rule that they may be irreproachable. The children and relatives should at all times remember their duty toward one whom the Lord has entrusted to their care; and the widows should guard against the temptation to indulge in a life of sin and shame, of prodigality and wastefulness. It is an admonition which must be made a rule, which must be held before those for whom it is intended time and again, lest they yield to an attack of Satan and fall into some snare prepared by him. It is the Lord’s will that all Christians, and therefore also those to whom these special admonitions are directed, should be without blame, should conduct themselves so as to be free from just censure.

The apostle, moreover, draws a general conclusion from the discussion, makes a general rule: But if any one does not provide for his own people, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. The Lord has distinctly stated that the support of forsaken widows rests, first of all, upon the relatives as a sacred duty. Speaking in a wider sense, His apostle now makes it the duty of every one, man or woman, young or old, to discharge the debt which relationship imposes. If any one neglects his near relatives and, above all, the members of his own family, that are connected with him by the bonds of the closest blood relationship, he clearly shows that he has no love for them. But this, in turn, is evidence of the fact that true faith no longer dwells in his heart, that he has repudiated the faith that ever did have its home there. Even an unbeliever, an infidel, a heathen, that has not yet felt the power of the Holy Ghost in the Word, would be ashamed to become guilty of such behavior, of abandoning his nearest relatives to a miserable fate. Worse than such an infidel, therefore, is a person that bears the name of Christian, and yet refuses to perform one of the chief duties demanded of him.

The Care of Widows on the Part of the Congregation. 1 Tim. 5, 9-16.

V.9. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, v.10. well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. V.11. But the younger widows refuse; for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; v.12. having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. V.13. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. V.14. I will, therefore, that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. v.15. For some are already turned aside after Satan. V.16. if any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. Having given his definition of a widow that is in need and actually forsaken, he now proceeds to show in what manner the congregation should make arrangements for the support of the true widows: A widow should not be entered in the list (of dependents) unless she has reached the age of sixty, (having been) the wife of one man. It seems that the incident related in Acts 6 caused the various Christian congregations to prepare a list of such widows as were entitled to the support of the congregation. It is with reference to this list that St. Paul makes the rule, placing the age of widows to be supported at sixty years, not less, this being the age at which they probably would no longer be able to support themselves. But Paul names also other requisites. First of all, she must have been the wife of one man, that is, her married life must have been unattended by any scandal; she must have been a faithful wife to the husband with whom she had been joined in wedlock.

But the apostle has also other conditions: Well spoken of for good works, if she have brought up children, if she have been hospitable, if she have washed the feet of saints, if she have brought relief to distressed (people), if she have diligently followed every good work. St. Paul demanded that widows that were to be maintained at the expense of the congregation should be well reported, well spoken of, have an excellent reputation so far as good works are concerned. He wanted the names of only such women in the lists as were generally known to be women of a good moral, of a strictly Christian character. Their sphere of activity was to be that of good works. The apostle offers some suggestions as to the manner in which an investigation as to the fitness of a candidate might be conducted. Did she bring up her children, if God granted her any, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Did she show a heart full of merciful love toward strangers? Was she willing to show hospitality to some poor sojourning Christian brother? Was she ready to show the saints that entered her home special acts of kindness and courtesy which custom demanded, which gave evidence of her unselfish humility? Was she ready to bring relief in word and deed to such as were in distress? Was it her constant endeavor to be of assistance in any case of trouble according to ability? Was she always zealous and interested in every good work? Did she, in other words, devote her entire life to the service of her neighbor, giving evidence of the faith of her heart in unselfish love? If these and similar points could be established by a tactful investigation, then such a widow might be enrolled in the list of the congregation, among those that were entitled to the support which was regularly given to such as were actually in need of help.

The apostle now describes another class of widows whom he very emphatically does not want to be included in the catalog of those that were entitled to maintenance: But the younger widows refuse; for if they feel the desire of the flesh over against Christ, they want to marry, having the condemnation that they have cast off their first faith. For denying the younger widows the right to be enrolled in the list of those that were supported by the congregation the apostle gives a simple reason. The younger women were still in possession of their full intellectual and bodily vigor, with all that this implies. As long as they were busy with their own support, there would be sufficient outlet for their superfluous energy, and they would not so easily be inclined to get into mischief. Should they receive their full support from the congregation, however, there would not be a convenient outlet for their natural rigor. Idleness would be apt to increase the impulse of their bodily desires, they would be in danger of seeking sensual satisfaction, of becoming addicted to dissipation and voluptuousness. This behavior, in turn, would place them in the strongest opposition to Christ. Even if they should then take the opportunity to get married and escape from the temptations to wickedness, the accusation would still stand that by means of the support received from the congregation they had taken the opportunity to become addicted to various vices. They would come under the judgment of condemnation that they had lost their faith by indulging in such sins of the flesh. Even marriage, in itself a holy state, would in their case only be the result of their having indulged in a life of erne which intensified the natural passions and made the gratification of their sex impulse the only reason for their entering it again. 9)

But the apostle has still another reason for excluding younger widows from the support of the congregation: At the same time, on the other hand, being at leisure, they learn to run about from house to house, not only idle, however, but also garrulous and inquisitive, speaking things which they should not. With their maintenance assured, the younger widows might soon find time heavy on their hands. They would have too much leisure and at the same time too much energy. If they had devoted themselves to works of mercy, if they had spent the time at their disposal in growing in Christian knowledge, all might yet have been well. But the apostle's experience had shown him that they employed their time in an altogether different manner. They gadded about from house to house, without definite aim and purpose. Their idleness in itself was bad enough under the circumstances, but they also became gossipers, tattlers, they killed time with empty talk; they pried into affairs which were not their business, they managed to worm out family secrets from unsuspecting matrons. Naturally they got into the habit of repeating things which should have remained secret, their garrulousness being unrestrained by common sense; in a word, they developed into first-class talebearers. The application of the words of the apostle to circumstances of our day is so obvious that every reader may easily add his own comment.

The apostle now proposes a remedy for such conditions: I ordain, then, that the younger (widows) marry, bear children, manage a household, in no way give occasion to an opponent in favor of railing; for already some are turned aside after Satan. In order to avoid offense both within and outside of the congregation, the apostle here establishes a rule which may well be followed more frequently also in our days. The danger, as experience has shown, being such as pictured by St. Paul, the remedy lies in this, that younger widows enter holy matrimony for the second time before there is any chance for offense. And since marriage, by the blessing of God, should naturally be fruitful, the bearing of children should follow as a matter of course. That marriage, in our days, is often regarded only as a silly, voluptuous game, in which the blessing of children is excluded from the outset, is a damnable perversion of God’s ordinance. The younger widows, having married again, would at any rate be engaged in managing their own households, in bringing up their children, and in taking care of the business end of the home. In the position of mother and mistress of a household a woman will best fulfill her calling in the world, will come nearest to meeting the ideal which the Bible praises. In this double office as mother and mistress of her household the woman, then, is so busily engaged that she has no time for gadding and for voluptuousness, and opponents will hardly find occasion for justified criticism and raillery which might throw a bad light on the Christian religion, on the faith and doctrine which the believers confess, upon which they pride themselves. The apostle’s apprehension in this respect was not without good foundation, since some widows had already gone wrong, they had yielded to temptation, had forgotten chastity and decency, had left the way of sanctification, had denied the faith.

At the close of this paragraph the apostle once more takes up the matter of the maintenance of the widows: If a man or a woman among the believers have widows (among his or her relatives), let him assist them; the congregation is not to be burdened with them, in order that those widows that are really in need may be served with help. It seems that the care of the widows in the congregations was a burning question in those days, making it necessary for St. Paul to pay so much attention to its solution. His summary is that no person related to a widow should be permitted to evade the duty resting upon him; every one should see to it that such a lonely widow is taken care of, that she is given the support which she needs. The congregation as such should not be burdened with her support, except in case of absolute necessity. Note: The congregations of our day may well learn to take care of their benevolences in a well-ordered manner, which includes tactful investigation of all such cases in which support seems to be demanded.

Rules of Conduct with Regard to the Elders of the Congregation. 1 Tim. 5, 17-25.

V.17. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. V.18. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and, The laborer is worthy of his reward. V.19. Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses. V.20. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. V.21. I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. V.22. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins. Keep thyself pure. V.23. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. V.24. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. V.25. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. Having named the qualifications of a bishop or elder in the third chapter, the apostle here speaks of the regard in which the members of the presbytery should be held and the manner in which they should be treated: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, above all those that toil in the Word and doctrine. All the elders, all the members of the presbytery that are engaged in that excellent office and work of overseeing and ruling the congregation, should be regarded and treated with double honor, partly on account of their age, partly on account of the dignity of their office. This includes, as a matter of course, that those men who devote all their time to the congregation receive such a compensation as will enable them to live decently with their family, in proportion to the average income of the church members. But the apostle singles out those that are engaged in the hard labor, in the toil connected with the teaching of the Word, in proclaiming Christian doctrine. These men, whom we now designate as pastors or ministers, are not only engaged in the arduous work of overseeing the flock of Christ, but also have charge of the fatiguing labor of teaching, both publicly and privately, in public sermons and individual pastoral application.

The apostle supports this demand with passages from Scriptures: For Scripture says, The ox treading out the grain thou shalt not muzzle; and, Worthy is the laborer of his pay. In the Ceremonial Law of the Old Testament, Deut. 25, 4, the rule had been included that no farmer engaged in threshing his grain on the open stone threshing-floor, such as were in use in the Orient, was permitted to place a muzzle on the oxen that were treading out the grain from the hull. The animals were to be allowed to eat of the straw and of the grain as much as they liked. The application the apostle leaves to the reader, and it certainly offers little difficulty. The second passage quoted by him is not found in that form in the Old Testament, being a word used by Jesus, Matt. 10, 10; Luke 10, 7. “It would seem probable, therefore, that he had seen the Gospel by Matthew or by Luke, and that he quoted this as a part of Scripture, and regarded the Book from which he made the quotation as of the same authority as the Old Testament. If so, then this may be regarded as an attestation of the apostle to the inspiration of the ‘Gospel’ in which it was found.” (Barnes.) A laborer is worthy of his pay, or wages. A pastor being engaged all the time in the service of the congregation, either directly or indirectly, it follows that he must be given his livelihood by the people whom he serves. But the support thus offered by the congregation cannot be considered adequate payment for the imparting of blessings that cannot be paid with all the money of the world. The maintenance of pastors is not a matter of charity, but of plain duty on the part of the congregations. 10)

The apostle next takes up the matter of accusations against the elders of the congregation: Against an elder do not accept a charge except by two or three witnesses. It was to be expected that the ruling elders of the congregation, the members of the presbytery, would be subject to suspicion and criticism, partly from jealousy, partly from ignorance. This situation St. Paul meets in time by giving this rule for cases of that kind. Timothy, as the apostolic delegate, was in no way to accept such accusations, not permit them to be discussed, unless the testimony of at least two or three witnesses was available, Deut. 19, 15b. It was of prime importance that the dignity of the ministerial office should be guarded, and that mere suspicions and conjectures should not be permitted to hinder the course of the Gospel.

On the other hand, of course, it was necessary to make use of the utmost severity in dealing with a real offense: Those that sin rebuke before all that the others also may have fear. If it should happen that an elder become guilty of some grave offense against morality, such as adultery, drunkenness, and other sins, where the guilt is apparent or easily proved, especially if the official concerned was making a practice of such sins, there Timothy should administer his rebuke immediately and with great emphasis. For it is by means of such offenses that the greatest harm is done in the Christian Church. A sharp, rebuke would have the purpose, not only of correcting the erring brother and bringing him to his senses, but also of serving as a warning to others, that is, to the other members of the presbytery. To use just the right words in a case of this kind and to be tactful in just the right way is not an easy matter. The apostle therefore adds the solemn adjuration: I charge thee before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels that thou observe these points without prejudice, doing nothing according to partiality. He calls upon God, the Lord of heaven, upon Christ Jesus, the Lord of the Church, upon all the elect or holy angels, as witnesses of his earnest charge. Timothy should remember that all these were vitally interested in the work and success of the Church, and should govern all his actions accordingly. His attitude must be one of absolute impartiality, his judgment should be influenced neither by personal likes nor dislikes. As there is no respect of persons with God, so Timothy should discard all outside influences and let the facts of the case decide the matter.

More important, however, than the proper adjustment of matters after an offense of this kind was that of avoiding them altogether, if possible: Lay hands hurriedly on no man. Timothy was not to be too anxious about accepting or ordaining men as presbyters or elders. The proper examination of every candidate's qualifications was never to be omitted, lest some one be ordained and installed in the work of the ministry who might later prove altogether unfit for the office. Should this occur, the criticism would later strike Timothy, and that with full justice. For that reason the apostle adds the warning: Nor become partaker of other men's sins. Should Timothy perform the ordination of some man, thereby declaring him to possess the necessary ability and character for the office, whereas it would later appear that the man was altogether unworthy of the ministry, especially if false ambition, avarice, and other sins of like kind should be proved, then the blame would certainly fall upon the ordinant for his hasty action, and he would be considered guilty with the sinner.

Timothy was to keep his hands entirely clean in the matter, for which reason St. Paul adds a few rules: Thyself keep pure; namely, from this offense and from every other evil. He should not become guilty of laxity, of lack of proper care. He should keep himself morally clean, guard against every pollution of the body and of the spirit. That Paul here does not advocate a false abstinence is shown in his next words: Be no longer a water-drinker; but use a little wine on account of thy stomach and thy frequent attacks of weakness. It may be that Timothy had made it a permanent practice of fasting and denying himself even the necessities demanded for good health and for that reason was in danger of becoming ill. The drinking of a little wine, therefore, would stimulate his appetite and benefit his stomach. Note: If abstinence from food or drink endangers the health, a decent regard for the Fifth Commandment demands the changing of habits that are dangerous.

After these parenthetical remarks, which were intended for Timothy alone, the apostle returns to his subject: The sins of certain men are manifest from the beginning before the Judgment, some men they follow after. This is a general truth, but with a very specific application to the case in hand, the ordaining of unworthy, incompetent men for the office of elder or pastor. Timothy was to make his judgment, his examination, with great care in the case of every candidate for the holy office. It would then become manifest that the sins of some men: their gross transgressions, were so well known that they appeared in advance at the examination and declared the candidate to be unworthy. In the case of others, however, the unworthiness would become apparent only by a careful weighing of the evidence offered. If there were any suspicious circumstances at all, the apostle wanted his representative to look into the matter very carefully and not to make a hasty conclusion.

However, just as it was with the sins of some, so it was with the good works and excellencies of other candidates: Likewise also the excellent works are manifest, and those in whose case the opposite is true cannot remain hidden. In most cases the really excellent works of a man will be known far and wide, will receive their merited praise. And where the matter is not so plain, where a candidate is very reluctant about revealing any praiseworthy act, or where the jealousy of enemies makes every effort to cover his worth, there the examination will nevertheless, if conducted properly, result in the correct judgment of the situation. If this care in the selection of able candidates for the holy office were at all times exercised, it would undoubtedly result in raising the dignity and the worth of the ministry to a much higher level than it occupies at the present time.

Summary. The apostle discusses the manner in which Timothy should administer rebukes, how the widows in the congregation are to be taken care of, and treats at length of the qualifications of a widow that expects to be supported by the congregation; he speaks also of the honor due to the elders and of the care which must be exercised in selecting candidates for this important office.