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. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 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. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. (1 Timothy 5:11-15)
Ok…let’s go over the list of criteria for widows who should be helped by the church, as it stands in our study:
1. She should not have family who can care for her. There is an additional reminder of this policy in the form of a principle in 5:16 – 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.
2. She should not be prone to spend what time and resources she has on a sinful lifestyle. Instead, she should be someone who looks to the Lord for her sustenance.
3. She should be at least 60 years of age.
This brings us to the obvious question: “What are those under the age of 60 supposed to do?” Paul has an answer…or rather two options. The two options are a little difficult to state accurately, but here is how I see them…
Option #1 – A young widow who chooses to remain single should make sure she is not overcome by her sensual desires, but remains dedicated to Christ.
Option #2 – A young widow who has trouble controlling her sensual desires should marry, have children, and manage a household.
I don’t think Paul is picking on women here. It is just that the subject is young widows, a group made up of women. He talks about young single men in other writings. He is merely saying women in this group, as those of either gender in any group, need purpose in their lives. Without it, they slip into the habit of saying and doing the wrong things, at the expense of the right things.
I believe it is up to all believers to help young widows through this very difficult time in their lives. Although they are not on “the list” Paul references here, I don’t think that prevents the church from reaching out to them and helping them financially until they are able to care for themselves, especially if they have children. I am convinced “the list” is a long-term solution for older widows.
These are very difficult teachings, and I think we should remember Paul’s intent is to make sure people who need help receive it, and that those who don’t need help are not allowed to deplete the resources that could help those who do. We need much wisdom in understanding how this all looks in real life.
Dear God, help me be wise with your resources, and loving and gracious in their application. In Jesus’ name, Amen.