Online Bible Commentary
Caring for Widows
1 Timothy 5:11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need. (NIV)
Paul is giving special instructions for church leaders in this letter to Timothy. Timothy is currently helping the church in Ephesus. These instructions were needed because of the false teaching in the church. Some of the widows were helping to spread the false teaching. In the previous passage Paul wrote of the qualifications for widows to be entitled to receive support from the church. In this passage He writes of those not entitled to receive support.
Paul writes of the “younger widows” (v. 11a), those sixty years of age or younger. These widows are not to be put on the “list” for support (v. 11b). This is because they are not yet considered to be of “old age” and they also have a better chance of remarrying. The “sensual desires” of these younger widows may make them more likely to want to remarry (v.11c). Paul has previously suggested that it is better for people to remain single, like himself, and devoted wholly to Christ. However, if they have “sensual desires” that they can not control it is better for them to marry (1 Cor. 7:8-9). He stays consistent with that teaching here.
If the widow allows herself to be controlled by her “sensual desires”, there is the chance that she will marry a non Christian and forsake her faith. The word translated “pledge” (v. 12) is the Greek word “pistis”, which is better translated “faith”. This is Paul’s concern in verse twelve. He also cautioned against this in 1 Cor. 7:39-40. Therefore, if this was to happen, the widow will bring judgment upon herself for forsaking her relationship with Christ (v.12). He is concerned with the widows forsaking the teachings of Christianity and resorting to false teaching because some have already done this (v.15).
Whenever anyone strays from Christian teaching, they are more open to accepting or promoting false teaching. We see an epidemic of this in our society today. This happens especially when Christian young men and women go off to college. If they do not continue to attend church, they are more prone to following false teaching, the ways of Satan. The source of this false teaching is typically the Godless professors in our colleges. This was the same concern Paul had for the “young widows” who might marry non Christians.
The other reason, in addition to “sensual desires”, for young widows to remarry is so that they do not have time on their hands (v. 13). The old saying “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is true. Idleness not only prevents constructive behavior, but also leads to destructive behavior. Paul has seen the younger widows spreading false teaching because they have too much time on their hands. They turned to gossip and became “busybodies”, slandering others, including God’s word. His solution for this problem is for them to marry, perhaps have children, and manage a home (v. 14). But they are only to marry Christian men.
Paul concludes this passage with a charge to the Christian daughters of widows (v.16a). In the preceding passage Paul wrote that widows with children or grandchildren were not entitled to help from the church because it was the Christian responsibility for their families to take care of them. Here he appeals especially to daughters to help the widows in her family. It is the Godly thing to do, and it frees the church to help those “true widows”, the ones who are “really in need” (v. 16b).
In the church today, there may be more widows than ever before. People are living longer and women typically outlive men. Widows have more years of being in need. It is more important than ever for families to care for the widows in their families. And it is more important than ever for churches to care for those widows who live alone and who do not have families. It is the church’s responsibility to care for these Godly women. Too many are left to fend for themselves. Some churches do a good job of caring for their widows. Others may be in need of a new focus in this area. How is your church doing?