Jeremiah 37 & 38
1 Timothy 5.1-25
Widows, Laziness & the State of Your Flocks
Widows, Families, & Leadership
This chapter gives instructions for the church’s care of widows (vss. 3, 5-7, 9-16), the responsibility for families to care for their own members (vv. 4,8), and continues Paul’s instructions to Timothy about not being “hasty” to put someone in leadership (vss. 22-25).
Those Who Are Really Widows
Honor widows who are really widows (v. 3).
We have become an entitlement society. Young people think they are entitled to the latest smart phone or electronic gadget. Former employees believe they are entitled to compensation whether or not they were faithful employees. Irresponsibility is awarded in numerous ways and is the expectation.
There are times when the church, and by default society, should take care of others, but the Bible gives careful instructions for the dispensing of such help.
Laziness is condemned through the Bible. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said:
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (1 Thess. 3.10).
In this passage, Paul gives detailed instructions for the care of widows:
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man,10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry,12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan (vss. 9-15).
One thing for sure … Paul would never have made it in politics!
But God always gets it right. The church, which was also the social structure and the means of spiritual growth and care, was to provide for those who were “really widows.”
Those with close family members who were able to care for them, were to be provided for by their own families (vss. 4, 8).
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (v. 8).
And those who were widowed at a young age were to stay busy, not become idle, until such time as God provided another husband (v. 14).
Those considered “really widows” were those who had been faithful to their husbands (v. 9), had raised their children, practiced hospitality, and helped others (v. 10). In other words, those who had faithfully served the Lord and who had no close family members to care for them.
And they were to continue faithfully serving the Lord like Anna “who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Lk. 2.27).
“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (v. 5).
What might that look like today?
At the risk of oversimplifying our complex tax system and appearing to agree with everything our government does, I’ll just say this: we pay taxes to the civil authorities who act as God’s ministers (Rom. 13.1-7). A portion of which is used to provide for those unable to provide for themselves.
While we might all agree it’s not a great deal of money, in most cases, the basic financial needs of widows are met through Social Security and other government programs. But without the help of family and friends there are many other needs that can go unmet.
I believe there are many ways our churches can and should help with those needs. Things such as: home maintenance, automotive repairs, meals, and companionship, just to name a few.
Having been involved in women’s ministry and church leadership for a number of years, I understand that providing many of those things can become burdensome, be taken advantage of (partly because of human nature, but also because of our entitlement attitudes), and lead to a host of other problems (like married men going to the homes of young widows).
But as I studied and thought about this passage, I was reminded that challenges shouldn’t be an excuse not to obey God’s Word. I was also reminded that many of the problems I’ve seen were a result of not following the strict guidelines Paul laid out for the care of widows.
How does your church fulfill this command to “honor those who are really widows”? And how can widows stay involved in the ongoing ministry of the church?
Today’s Other Readings:
The Cost of Obedience
Can you imagine being thrown into a dungeon and, eventually, into a well for speaking the truth? There is often a cost involved in following God. Sometimes it’s rejection by our families or friends and sometimes persecution in the work place or some other area of society. Jeremiah certainly suffered as a result of his unswerving faith and willingness to speak the truth.
What about us? We must ask ourselves, are we willing to stand up for the truth—in our families, work places, schools and universities? Or do we cave in when it’s too hard or costly?
Jesus said in Luke 14.27, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” But we never carry that cross alone. He has promised He’ll never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13.5). And Paul told the young pastor, Timothy:
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Tim. 1.6-8 NIV).
His Merciful Kindness
75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
76 Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.
What if God calls us to suffer persecution or harm for our faith? Will we still trust Him? Will we allow His merciful kindness in saving us be our comfort? Or will we cast aside our confidence?
Do you know the state of your flocks?
This passage emphasizes the importance of being good stewards in whatever area of life or business God has called us. We should be wise and informed if we are in the business world or the academic world, but we should also be wise and informed as individuals, as parents, as citizens, and as Christians. Do you know the state of your flocks?
Share Jesus Without Fear
In recent years, the Share Jesus without Fear book and its growing family of ancillary products have sparked a faith-sharing movement that continues to gain momentum. It began with the jaw-dropping story of William Fay, once a money-driven businessman with Mafia ties who ran a house of prostitution until it was raided by police. Facing the threat of jail time, Fay turned to Jesus Christ for redemption and ever since has been turning others to Him as well. Share Jesus without Fear relays Fay’s passionate, effective instructions on how to share the love of Christ with anyone–without feeling intimidated on either side of the conversation. Bold and joyful, the outreach movement continues without fear.
You can also Shop for Other Resources
Getting ready for 2017
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in. As an incentive, I’ll be giving away one daily Bible to someone who signs up between now and October 31st and another one to someone who leaves a comment between now and then.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.