Week of March 27: Worship inspires service
By REV. DOREEN SMALLS
Lesson Scripture: 1 Timothy 5:1-8; 17-22
Jesus taught his disciples that to follow him was to serve him and that God honors those who serve him. One of the ways we serve Christ is by meeting the needs of others. In the fifth chapter of 1Timothy, Paul encourages believers to meet the needs of widows and to honor the elderly.
Speaking with purity
Throughout this epistle, Paul utilized household language and metaphors to describe the life and duties within the Christian community. In chapter five, he makes a comparison between how a person treats one’s extended family and how an individual should treat those in the family of God.
In verse one Paul states, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters – with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
If one speaks reverently and affectionately to his or her father; an individual should speak with the same reverence and care to an older man in the church. Likewise, one should converse with younger men and women in the body of Christ just as one would converse with one’s siblings. He also emphasized that a person should talk respectfully to older women in the community of faith just as one would talk to his or her mother.
As a church leader, Timothy was responsible for communicating properly to all persons and all ages in various situations. The harsh rebukes that Timothy is trying to circumvent are personal verbal attacks that can occur when tension and anger are present. Exhortation is a preferable method that includes correction, encouragement and admonition and can lead to unity instead of hostility.
Paul urged an approach that values relationships and personal involvement. Although churches consist of persons with various ages, marital statuses and socioeconomic backgrounds, all should be treated with respect. What level of respect does your communication reveal?
Caring for vulnerable ones
From Israel’s beginnings, God has been known as a defender of widows (Deut. 10:18; 24:17). Justice among God’s people was measured in part by the treatment of widows. Caring for the widows became a part of the covenant community’s responsibility (Acts 6:1; James 1:27).
In this text, Paul also addressed the issue the community’s support for widows. He cites, “Honor widows who are really widows. If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God’s sight. The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives … And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:3-6;8).
Paul made a distinction between two types of widows: those who are in real need with no support and no one to care for them and those widows with family members who can care for them. The church was advised to first give assistance to those without any help. Widows with family, children, or grandchildren were not to side step their responsibility but were directed to extend financial and emotional support.
For children and grandchildren who were believers, making provisions for widows were a true expression of their faith. Not only is it a logical recompense for her faithful service to her children and grandchildren, but it is also pleasing to God. Those who did not care for widows have “denied the faith.”
The care for widows remains a vital ministry. To care for those who have lost the one with whom they have shared much of their life and their faith is a good and faithful act. The care for widows called forth in our Christian traditions arose from a desire to be in ministry to the most vulnerable among us. Who are the most vulnerable among us? How are you responding to their needs?
Proper regard for leaders
As in previous chapters of 1Timothy, Paul focused his attention on elders. Elders in this text do not refer to older members but they refer to church leaders. They were expected to lead godly lives and be models as example for everyone. He asserts that those who are faithful are to receive great respect.
He states, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1Timothy 5:17). If widows were to receive honor, those church leaders who teach and preach deserve honor as well. Again, what is true of the nuclear family is even truer of the family of God. In what ways do you honor church leaders?
Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries and she serves as Conference Secretary to Global Ministries. If you have any comments or questions, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.