1 Timothy 5:9-16  God’s grace gravitates towards those who are godly and devoted to good works

1 Timothy 5:9-16

9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12 thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their first faith*. 13 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

* NASB translates as previous pledge.

Background

Paul installs guidelines for the church’s welfare services towards widows. It appears that only widows of good standing, who are reputed for good works are considered for the list. The younger widows are better off remarrying and be occupied with raising a family. In today’s devotion, we learn (for the case of widows) that God’s grace gravitates towards those who are godly and devoted to good works.

Observation

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old…

“The list” refers to a specific category of believers that the church deems as worthy of financial assistance. Here, Paul lays down the criteria for those seeking inclusion on the list:

a. She must be of retirement age of at least 60 years.
b. She must not be a suspect of adulterous affairs. 
c. She must be reputed for good works, in showing hospitality to strangers, to believers and to assist those in distress.

Paul instructs Timothy to exercise caution when considering some younger widows for inclusion on the list because of their tendencies in acting out their sensual desires. Hence, financial assistance will likely subject them to the vulnerabilities of idleness, gossips and foolish talk. Instead, he advices them to remarry and raise up a new family, which is more appropriate. Through the endeavour of raising up a family, they keep themselves accountable to a marriage relationship and out of harm’s way. It appears that only widows who no longer desire to remarry will likely be enrolled on the list.

If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened…

Paul sets down guidelines for the church’s welfare services. The extended family of widows must take the responsibility to care for them. And if any believer who is a guardian of widows and has been providing for them, should continue to do so so that church resources may be better used to tend to widows with no dependants.

Truth

God’s favour gravitates towards those who are godly.

Paul instructs only for godly widows to be included in the list; those who are reputed for good works and who constantly look out for the distressed. In the scheme of things, if the godly ones are given higher priority to resources, it becomes a matter of principle that God favours those whom He delights in. The psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4. Divine favour is granted proportionately to one’s propensity to please God through his good works. Some churchgoers insist that since God is love, He can do nothing less than to keep His blessings flowing towards saints and sinners alike. If that is so, then, where is justice? How can God judge the world if there is no separation between the righteous and the unrighteous, the faithful and the unfaithful? 

Therefore, it is wise to consider the manner in which we live today in order to reap the mercies of God tomorrow. However, it appears that the trend seems to go against the godly in preference for the corrupt. However, the psalmist responds,

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. Psalms 37:7-10

The justice of God calls for the eventual prospering of the righteous and damnation of the wicked. Therefore, believers should not fret over the transient prosperity of the wicked, but continue to devote themselves to godliness and good works.

Believers must take the initiative to care for one another in the church.

Paul calls for believers of the church to take up the responsibility of caring for widows in their midst while freeing the church’s resources for widows who have no dependants. Most people do not see caring for the needy in their midst as their responsibility thinking there is always someone else who would do it. Or they would do all kinds of superfluous things to help short of giving practical help and financial assistance. Some even think that since it’s more blessed to give than to receive,  they would gladly let others have the privilege and blessing of helping the needy person. It is regrettable that many still see money as more important than people. The distinctive of a true family of God is sincere love through practical care for one another. The church’s primary responsibility is to regenerate the hearts of people, not to provide financial aid. 

Application

Are there people in your church who are alone in their struggles? Even though you may not know them, make an effort to approach and fellowship with them. Come out of your comfort zone of familiar people by reaching out to those who are lonely. In doing so, you fulfill the distinctive of pure religion, which is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unstained from the world (see James 1:27). 

Dear Lord, I desire to emerge from the comfort zone of familiar people and reach out to those who are alone in their struggles. Shower me with your favour and mercies as I devote myself to good works and to assist those who are in distress. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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