1 Timothy 5:16

Saturday, 27 January 2018

If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows. 1 Timothy 5:16

There is a dispute in texts as to whether this says “If any believing man or woman,” or if it says, “If any believing woman.” Apart from this, the issue remains the same. The church was not to be burdened with what the family could attend to. This follows along with the words of verse 5:8 then. Paul is stressing the importance of the care of one’s family, in particular needy widows, instead of passing it along to others. He is speaking to believers, and they are to pay heed to his word. As he is an apostle, his words were considered authority. As they are written, they continue in that same authority beyond the church at Ephesus to all churches. They are prescriptive, and they are expected to be attended to.

When a believer (woman/man or woman) has widows, “let them relieve them.” This specifically means “to support them.” There is no exception given by Paul. If there is a need, the need is to be met by the one who the Lord has placed in the position of nearness to the widow. They are to ensure the widow is cared for. As he then says, “and do not let the church be burdened.” To ignore this responsibility means that the church will then receive the burden. If it is a compassionate church as it should be, the people will ultimately pick up the tab, even if it causes an unnecessary weight to fall upon it. But this should not be the case. Instead, the church has another, greater responsibility which is “that it may relieve those who are really widows.”

This is referring to the widow who is “really a widow” of verses 3-5. Such a person has no one to tend to her. The church would certainly want to help such a poor, pitiful soul with its resources. The number could be larger than expected because the admonition to care for one’s widow is to believers. However, there could be believing widows whose only family were non-believers. In that case, there would be no authority by Paul to command the family care for them. If they had no desire to do so, she would be “really a widow” even though she had a family. This is why Paul is so adamant about the care of widows by believing family. He isn’t writing arbitrary rules, but rather he is looking at the circumstances of the world in which we live realistically. The church can only do so much, but it would do what it could for those who were truly in need.

Life application: It is not uncommon for people to come to church and ask for help from the church, but quite often this puts an undue pressure on the church. For those looking for assistance, there should be the careful consideration of other options for needs to be met before asking the church, or individual members, to carry a weight which is not at all their responsibility.

Lord God, thank You for the fellowship of believers, and for the joy that comes from sharing in life with them. But help us not to get overly dependent on others, and inconvenience them for our every need. Help us to remember that other people have lives, responsibilities, desires for private personal time, etc. And so help us to give them that needed space. May our desire to fellowship with others not turn into something that they will find overly consuming of their own lives. Amen.

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