For the last several weeks we have dealt, for the most part, with Paul’s challenge to Timothy and the church at Ephesus to deal with false teachings and false teachers. This week we change our focus and talk about the church’s responsibility in caring for widows who have no means of support. We will also talk about the church’s responsibility in regard to taking care of pastors.
1. Think for a moment about some memorable families from television or movies. What are some that come to your mind? (Father Knows Best; Andy Griffith Show; The Partridge Family; Everybody Loves Raymond; I Love Lucy; The Sound of Music; The Middle; The Crosby Show; All in the Family; etc.)
2. Are there any of these families that you would like to join? Why or why not?
A Google search revealed many more shows about families than I listed, but most of which I was not familiar with. Families aren’t made up of perfect people and neither is the church.
3. Do you believe that there is an expectation that the church can function with less conflict than a typical family?
To run smoothly, a family needs mutual respect among its members. While we may not have experienced this ideal in our own families, we can understand its importance. In providing instructions on how to treat fellow believers, those in need, and those in leadership within the church, Paul compared the church to a family.
The importance of relationships and how we deal with them properly cannot be overstated within the family as well as the church!
Key question to consider today: What role should the church play in caring for the needs of people in the community?
Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10.
Respect All! Read 1 Timothy 5:1-2
1. How would you describe the different ways Paul counseled Timothy to treat the members of the church of different gender and different ages? (Treat them as he would his own family members, each with the respect, honor and purity due them.)
Choosing encouragement as the method for urging older men in righteousness respects their age and experience and prevents a younger leader from falling into the trap of arrogance. The implication here is that if an older man needs to be corrected on an issue it should be done in private with encouragement.
2. What role do church leaders have in the spiritual care of others? (Defining the church as a family relationship implies an inherent and equivalent structure to the home where love, care, and respect for one another take precedence.)
Consistently treating women like mothers and sisters entails a level of courtesy and respect that naturally creates harmony and dispels suspicion.
3. How does the way we approach a person impact his or her willingness to listen?
4. How can a person balance sternness and love? (ALWAYS speak with respect and love—even when it is difficult.)
People have a responsibility for caring for those in their family. In the following verse, Paul explained how this responsibility applied to both the traditional family and to the church family when it came to caring for widows.
Although our English word widow refers to a woman whose husband has died, the Greek word for widow describes a woman who may have lost her husband by death, incarceration, or desertion.
Care for Widows! Read 1 Timothy 5:3-8
Paul outlined requirements for which widows should receive support from the church. Paul was establishing the case for discernment and wisdom in utilizing church resources for widows. To support a widow who clearly traveled the path of self-indulgence would not only represent unwise stewardship, it would also enable the widow to continue in her sin.
1. Why do you suppose Paul spelled out such detailed instruction for the care of widows? (The plights of widows, especially aging women who do not have the earning power to be self-sufficient, remains a crisis of care for those who find themselves in that situation.)
The directions for widow care is more evidence of God’s compassion for the underdogs of this world and should be a warning to be careful how we treat them.
When there is a widow in need, rather than accuse God of being cruel, thank God for the opportunity and the means to be a blessing to others.
2. What principles should be followed today for the care of widows? (God holds family members accountable to serve as the first responders in caregiving for widows. Leading the church to accept responsibility to help care for faithful widows who have no family is a demonstration of God’s compassion.)
3. How can the leadership of the church determine the best use of resources while also extending grace and mercy to those in need? (Here in our church care given to individual widows is kept very private and confidential to avoid any embarrassment. While at the same time verifying the need is a genuine need.)
4. What do the stern words Paul reserved for negligent family members tell you about how seriously God takes these relationships? (When we ignore the needs of our family whom God has entrusted to our care, our failure ranks with denying a dying Christ on the cross. Not accepting obligations of care puts us on the same level as unbelievers, who may be ignorant of their moral obligations.)
5. Where is the line between family expectations and church responsibility?
6. How can they partner in a way that is fair to both?
To fail to take care of our aging parents is to be disobedient to the 5th Commandment—“Honor your father and mother.”
In 1 Timothy 5:9-16 Paul gives some specific qualifications for widows to receive assistance from the church.
Care for Pastors! Read 1 Timothy 5:17-21
1. Why would Paul include pastors as a special class of people who are entitled to the care of churches? (Hard work deserves its reward. For pastors called to full-time ministry, the church provides for him and his family. They are essentially “on call” 24 hours a day and spend their time studying and preparing for their teaching and preaching assignments. All the while ministering to the church family. They have dedicated their lives to serve the church and usually haven’t had other opportunities to amass financial support.)
2. Do you believe it is more difficult or easier to lead a church today than it was thirty years ago? (The answer to this question is dependent on the congregation and the longevity of the pastor to some extent. Our society is certainly more difficult to reach today than it was 30 years ago.)
Paul discussed three areas of care for our pastors: financial support and respect; rejection of unsupported accusations; rebuke and fair discipline for supported accusations.
3. When dealing with church leaders, what specifics did Paul give about the unique pastoral role? (1-Refusing to entertain unsupported accusations prevents the leader from being needlessly derailed by false accusations or determined critics. 2-Discipline that’s warranted but redemptive serves as an example to others and a striking reminder that not one is above God’s laws, and we all have a way back into God’s favor.)
By taking to heart Paul’s reminder to avoid prejudice and favoritism, we stand a much better chance of avoiding church-wide conflicts and managing our relationships with our leaders.
Summarize and Challenge!
How can we know we’re meeting our obligations to the people whom God entrusted to our care?
-Paying attention to the special classes of people that Paul highlighted in this passage helps us respond appropriately with the care that God expects us to provide
-Reviewing our relationships inside and outside of the church and looking for signs of neglect, indifference, or division will help us focus on those who need attention.
-Having concern for those who should receive special considerations for care will help us meet our spiritual obligations.
Review your obligations to others, especially in the church.
1. Do you treat them as Paul directed Timothy?
2. Think about the widows you know, especially church and family members. How can you and the church further provide for their care?
3. How can your church effectively honor and support your pastors?
Close in prayer, thanking God for the godly leadership of our church. Ask God to encourage and protect them in their ministry.