Saturday, 20 January 2018
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, 1 Timothy 5:9
Scholars have taken the words of this verse – words which are plain, simple, and unambiguous – and they have developed all kinds of crazy notions as to what Paul is saying here. Some have built an entire class of senior women who have a special office and authority in the church. Others have manipulated the term, “wife of one man,” to mean something other than what the words clearly signify. On and on go strange analyses of the verse, based on absolutely nothing. What Paul says isn’t suddenly a new subject at all. Rather, it is the same thing he has been referring to since verse 3.
“Do not let a widow under sixty years be taken into the number” is speaking of the group of women who can be supported by the church. Paul has been speaking of the care of widows, he has shown that it is a family responsibility, he has shown what type of woman would be unqualified to receive the churches’ help, etc. Now he is showing how to care for a widow “who is really a widow” as noted in verse 5. Such a destitute soul must be sixty and above.
A younger widow could remarry, she would normally have enough strength to care for herself, etc. Paul is setting an age in order to avoid all the pitfalls which could otherwise arise. He does not provide an exception, and thus the church is expected to not make any after the issuance of his letter. Once a widow who is truly a widow reaches sixty, she has met the first qualification for assistance. This is perfectly in accord with the account in Acts 6 concerning the daily distribution of food to the widows.
Paul then states the next qualification is that she must have “been the wife of one man.” The words are not complicated, but numerous scholars attempt to help them along with unnecessary inferences. Some have said this means “one man at a time.” Others have taken it to be speaking of divorce, but “death and remarriage” is excluded, etc. Such analyses are go beyond what is written. To be the “wife of one man” is a necessary qualifier for a “widow indeed.” A woman who faithfully lived with her one husband, and then who never remarried, showed a special dedication to her husband that is emblematic of fidelity to Christ alone. It is a badge of honor which allows her to enjoy the rights of the table of widowhood.
Life application: Too often, commentaries about Paul’s words in the pastoral letters will attempt to dismiss the very intent of what is being said. Such would never be the case with his other letters, but because the pastorals touch on such personal subjects, scholars will allow their own emotions or biases to cloud the original intent and meaning. Pick up the word and read it as it is written. The obvious interpretation is what should be adhered to unless there is an exceptional reason to tie in an inference which is related to another portion of Scripture.
Heavenly Father, your care of the widow and orphan which is seen in Your word shows us a heart for the downtrodden. How caring and loving You are. Help us to emulate You in this Lord. Help us to be gracious and merciful to those around us, and to be willing to expend ourselves, even to a great degree, to relieve others of their times of trouble and affliction. Amen.