Considering we woke up to snow and slush this morning, today’s BC comic is spot on.
Monthly Archives: March 2014
The New Testament uses several metaphors to describe the church. The four most common are a fellowship, a flock, the body, and a family. As a fellowship, we focus on the things that promote unity rather than division. The flock is led by shepherd elders who feed, lead, guard, care, and model godliness for the flock. As the body of Christ, we focus on ministry, not maintenance. The family of God operates on the basis of relationships, not rules.
As Paul writes 1 Timothy 5:1-16, he digs deeper into the family concept. He emphasizes four key ideas in the passage—respect, compassion, responsibility, and credibility. When confronting people about sin, we are to demonstrate respect, and treat people like we would a member of our family (1-2). Godly widows are to be treated with compassion. They deserve financial help from their families and honor from the church (3-10, 16). Younger widows are to live in a responsible manner. They should seek to remarry and invest in their families (11-15). These practices demonstrate whether our Christianity is real and enhance the credibility of our faith (8, 14).
To understand Paul’s instructions in verses 1-2, keep in mind the sinful society in which Timothy found himself. Some in Ephesus abandoned the truth (1:5-6; 2:8), even to the point of shipwrecking their faith (1:19). Some women abandoned their proper role and were trying to usurp authority (2:9-15). There were people in leadership positions who weren’t qualified to lead (3:1-13). False teachers were spreading demonic false doctrines (4:1-5; 6:3-5). Still others were living impure lives (5:6-7; 11-13).
If I were in Timothy’s position, I would want to lash out and verbally assault the congregation. I might be tempted to go Iron Man and blast the false teachers into the next county. Rather than rebuke in a harsh manner, Paul says we are to treat people just we would a family member. We should encourage those older than us, respect those younger than us, and maintain pure relationships.
To my chagrin, I have to admit I haven’t always done that. One year after my father died of cancer, I told my mom to stop moping around and move on because that’s what dad would have wanted her to do. My words may have been true, but they were as blunt as a club. Three years later, I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for my mother and future stepfather. I gently encouraged both of them to stop relying on their children and start depending on each other. Again, my words were true, but this time they were more palatable because they were seasoned with grace.
In verses 3-16, Paul describes three types of widows—godly widows who should be supported by their families; godly widows who should be supported by the church; and young widows who should support themselves or remarry and be supported by their husbands.
Following the pattern of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6), the church in Ephesus developed a widow’s list. The problem was that they apparently stocked the list with any and every widow possible.
While Paul supports the concept of a widow’s list and that it might include financial support (3), he also indicates those on the list should be involved in a ministry of service and prayer (5). In addition, there are specific requirements the women had to meet before qualifying for the list. The widows had to be truly alone in the world (5). They were godly rather than self-indulgent (5-6). They were to be over 60 years old (9), faithful to their late husband (9), and have a reputation for good works and service (10).
Based on these qualifications, my late mother would not have qualified. While she was godly, devoted to prayer, over 60, and involved in serving the church, she wasn’t alone. She still had a son, me, and I was responsible to make sure she was cared for. Since I lived 1200 miles away, that meant phone calls to her, her pastor, her doctors, and her friends, as well as periodic visits. My wife and I talked to her about medical care, insurance, financial investments, and numerous other issues.
When a son or daughter chooses to act in a responsible manner and care for a widowed parent, we repay our parents for their investment in our lives (4b), we please God (4c), we demonstrate our faith is real (8), and we relieve the church of the burden (16) so they can focus on the godly widows who are truly alone in the world.
Next, Paul turns his attention to younger widows (11-15). Paul gives two reasons why the church should not financially support a younger widow. The first is that it might lead to a broken promise (11-12). After the death of her husband, a grief-stricken widow might pledge herself to follow Christ alone and never remarry. A few years later an eligible man comes along and her heart is drawn towards him and remarriage. Or a desperate widow might be tempted to marry a non-Christian. In either case, she has broken her vow and abandoned her faith.
Financial support might also enable a younger widow to lead an unproductive and sinful lifestyle (13, 15). Rather than invest in her family or ministry, her free time might lead to hanging out with friends, sharing the latest gossip, or frittering away the hours on Facebook and Pinterest. To avoid that from happening, Paul counsels a younger widow to make her family a priority, either through remarriage or investing in her children (14).
If you want to minister to widows or widowers in a more practical way, you might consider these ideas:
- Help widows and widowers work through the stages of grief.
- Help them navigate the maze of government entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
- Help them learn how to manage their retirement plans.
- Don’t forget their children or siblings. Pay attention to other family members as well.
- Offer a listening ear.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 30, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Tonight was the Dad’s Commitment Ceremony of our Raising a Modern-Day Knight course at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. We started out with a dinner of burgers and hot dogs. During our commitment ceremony, each dad committed himself to his son, his fellow dads, and to God to be a “Strategic Dad.” As each man grasped the sword, he pledged himself with these words,
“I, ____________, before God, commit myself to raise you _________, to be a modern-day knight. I promise to love you, impart God’s wisdom to you, spend time with you, have fun with you, and be the strategic dad you need me to be. I promise to lead you, into the masculinity of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. So help me, God. Amen.”
Afterwards, we celebrated with Robin Warner’s castle cake.
It was a very significant milestone in the life each family.
“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.” C. S. Lewis
What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it as we traveled?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?