1 Timothy 5:11-16
Last week in our study of 1 Timothy 5:3-10, we examined our responsibilities as families and church members to care for older widows in the church. We learned that first of all it is the responsibility of children and grandchildren to care for older widows in the family. In a case where there isn’t family to care for a widow, then it is the church’s role to provide for widows in need who have lived faithful and Godly lives.
Let’s look together at 1 Timothy 5:11-16,
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. 16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
In verse 11 Paul says, Refuse the younger widows. He’s saying don’t include them in the list of those widows in need that the church should provide for. And Paul shares two reasons they should not be included.
The first reason is in the second half of verse 11 and verse 12. In the NIV it says, 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.
Warren Wiersbe says,
“Because of their age, younger widows are naturally attracted to men and want to marry again. What is so bad about that? Paul seems to imply that each of the widows enrolled pledged herself to remain a widow and serve the Lord in the church. This pledge must not be interpreted as a “vow of celibacy,” nor should we look on this group of ministering widows as a “special monastic order.” There seemed to be an agreement between the widows and the church that they would remain widows and serve the Lord.”
If this were the case, if a widow had pledged herself to remain a widow, then remarrying would bring judgment on her for breaking a vow.
God takes very seriously our vows. We ought to be very careful and consider prayerfully a vow we wish to make. We should take our promises as seriously as God does.
I want to share with you three passages of scripture that help us understand God’s view of the vows we make and the importance of keeping them.
Numbers 30:2 (NIV) – When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
Deuteronomy 23:21 (NIV) – If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.
Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5 (NIV) – When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.
It is clear that God takes our vows seriously. When we make a vow before the Lord we must be sure to follow through with our commitment.
Paul indicates that a young widow would most likely, sooner or later desire to remarry and therefore it would be best not to make provision for her by adding her to the list of widows. If this is the natural inclination of a younger widow it is better for her to remarry a believer and live as a faithful and Godly wife.
In verse 13 Paul gives a second reason to exclude younger widows from the list of those whom the church supported.
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.
You are probably familiar with the phrase, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. There is a lot of truth to that isn’t there? If we are idle we often have more opportunity to get ourselves into trouble.
David Egner says,
“Economic recession inevitably leads to an increase in unemployment. And the higher the percentage of people out of work, the more problems our social agencies have to deal with. Alcohol and drug abuse increases. Domestic violence rises. Crime rates go up. Some people just can’t seem to stay out of trouble when they have idle time on their hands.” 1
What is true in our day was true in Paul’s day as well. Too much idle time can easily lead one to trouble. Younger widows with more energy than older ones would be susceptible to idleness, and being idle here is not doing nothing but being up to no good, which leads to further trouble. If the church was caring for the younger widow it could lead her to be a busy body with all her free time . A young widow being supported by the church, with no husband to be accountable to or a household to manage could easily fall into the habit of being idle, of not keeping herself busy with God honoring pursuits. The idleness could lead to going from house to house visiting with others for no God honoring purpose, giving opportunity for gossip and being a busybody.
It’s even easier these days to spread gossip. We can pick up the phone or send an email without ever leaving the house.
It isn’t just young widows gadding about from house to house, who can fall into the sin of gossip. Each of us needs to take care in our speech that we aren’t guilty of saying things that ought not be said.
Alan Redpath, the author of A Passion for Preaching shares a helpful way to test our words. Make note of this – this is helpful. We should practice this as a church. He says,
“I once formed a mutual encouragement fellowship at a time of stress in one of my pastorates. The members subscribed to a simple formula,” an acronym, “applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial.” The acronym is the word THINK.
T — Is it true?
H — Is it helpful?
I — Is it inspiring?
N — Is it necessary?
K — Is it kind?
“If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!”
Paul was concerned that young widows with too much time on their hands would become idle and end up being busybodies and gossips. Each of us needs to be careful that we are not guilty of gossip. Let’s remember to ask ourselves the questions and THINK, Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If not, let’s learn to keep quiet.
Paul advised Timothy not to put younger widows on the list of widows to be cared for by the church. He warns of the possible pitfalls if this were practiced.
Next Paul moves from the negative to the positive. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 5:14 again to see what Paul recommends.
14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
Paul outlines what God’s desire is for younger widows. First is marriage, then motherhood and homemaking.
Warren Wiersbe says,
” ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ was God’s mandate to our first parents (Gen 1:28), so the normal result of marriage is a family. Those today who refuse to have children because of the “awfulness of the times” should check out how difficult the times were in Paul’s day! If Christians do not have children and raise them to live for God, who will? “Guide the house” [manage the home in the NKJV], literally means “rule the house.” The wife should manage the affairs of the household, and her husband should trust her to do so (Prov. 31:10-31). Of course, marriage is a partnership; but each partner has a special sphere of responsibility. Few men can do in a home what a woman can do.”
Marriage, motherhood and homemaking – these are worthwhile pursuits for a Godly woman.
Henry Bosch says this about the value of a Godly mother,
“Many godly men of the past have been richly blessed by what they learned from their mothers. Consider the biblical characters Moses, Samuel, and Timothy. The maternal influence experienced by these spiritual leaders bore rich fruit in their lives. Think too of men like Augustine, John Newton, and the zealous Wesley brothers. Their names would probably never have lighted the pages of history if it hadn’t been for the godly women who raised them in homes where the law of love and a Christian witness were their daily guide and inspiration.
Susannah Wesley, for example, spent one hour each day praying for her 17 children. In addition, she took each child aside for a full hour every week to discuss spiritual matters. No wonder two of her sons, Charles and John, were used of God to bring blessing to all of England and much of America. Here are a few rules she followed in training her children:
(1) Subdue self-will in a child and thus work together with God to save his soul.
(2) Teach him to pray as soon as he can speak.
(3) Give him nothing he cries for and only what is good for him if he asks for it politely.
(4) To prevent lying, punish no fault, which is freely confessed, but never allow a rebellious, sinful act to go unnoticed
(5) Commend and reward good behavior.
(6) Strictly observe all promises you have made to your child.” 2
I think if more parents followed simple guidelines like these there would be fewer wayward children today. This managing the household and caring for children is a God honoring pursuit for a wife and mother. There’s no higher pursuit than to fulfill these duties for God’s glory.
There’s quite a contrast given in verses 13 and 14. In verse 13, we have a picture of a woman, being supported by the church, having too much time on her hands, and going around visiting the neighbors spending her time gossiping and being a busybody. Then in verse 14, Paul offers a much better alternative, a married woman, who is busy caring for her husband, children and home.
The last phrase in verse 14 says give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
How is the adversary given no opportunity to speak reproachfully? It is by the willingness of a woman to fulfill her duties as a wife, a mother and manager of the home. Now certainly not every widow under the age of sixty could remarry and have children. But she could fulfill her duties as a wife and manager of the home for God’s glory.
How critical for the church and society today that followers of Christ are following God’s design for the family in their homes. When we fail to do so, we give the enemy an opportunity to wreak havoc on our families. God is concerned with Godly discipline and order in our homes. If we desire the best for our families, we need to see to it that we are ordering our family life according to the Word of God. When we do so we bring honor and glory to God. By doing so we point others to Christ.
Titus 2:3-5 instructs,
3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
John MacArthur says this…
“The younger women, you must instruct, verse 14, to get married, bear children, keep house, give the enemy no occasion for reproach for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.
That’s sad. If they don’t get married, their physical desire will lead them in to sin. They need to get married and bear children and keep house. That’s their domain. That’s their area. That’s their responsibility. That’s their calling. That’s their place. And that allows the enemy no occasion to bring reproach on those women who name the name of Christ and go out and scandalize the name of Christ by their sin. So don’t put the younger women on the list.”
“The home is where a woman provides the expressions of love for her husband and her children. The home is where she leads and guides and teaches and raises the godly generation. The home is where she is protected and secured from other men and potentially wicked relationships and abuses. The home is where she lodges strangers, washes saints’ feet, shows hospitality and devotes herself to every good work. That’s her sphere.” 3
Now look at verse 15,
15 For some have already turned aside after Satan.
Apparently there were cases of young widows who had been placed on the list and had turned away to follow Satan. These were not believers. This is why Paul was instructing Timothy in this examination of those widows worthy of support. It was important that this situation be avoided in the future, therefore Paul gives clear direction on how to deal with the younger widows so that it would not continue to occur.
16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
Again, Paul points out that it is first of all the responsibility of the family to care for their own widows. This time he specifically mentions that if any believing man or woman has widows in their family they should help them and not allow the church to be burdened with them. Then the church is free to help the widows who are truly in need and have no family to care for them.
Commenting on this verse, Ray Stedman said,
”Brief as it is, three times in this passage the apostle has underscored the responsibility to take care of older people. It is not always necessary to have them live in the home, though that is the usual and probably the best relationship, but sometimes physical requirements might mean that they be taken care of elsewhere.
It is also clear, as William Barclay points out in his commentary on this passage, that this lays a responsibility not only on family members to take care of the older parents, but on the older parents to be the kind of people who can live at home with their younger children. There is a dual responsibility here. Sometimes older parents can be so crotchety, grouchy, complaining, and interfering that it is not possible for them to live in the home. Scripture allows for adjustment of these principles to fit the situation; each family must decide for itself. But basically it is clearly underscored that it is the privilege, indeed the responsibility of families to take care of their older parents.”
Today as we’ve considered the church’s treatment of younger widows Paul points out the danger in supporting them and allowing them too much idle time. That is something we all need to be aware of and avoid in our lives.
Listen to Paul’s instruction in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12
11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
It isn’t just young widows, who need to avoid idleness, is it? Each of us needs to guard against being idle, that is, doing things that amount to no good. We must guard against being busybodies and see to it that we are busy doing what the Lord has called us to do.
Paul also notes how idleness can lead to sinful behavior such as gossip. Again, it isn’t just young widows who are susceptible to this. It is all of us. Remember to ask yourself the following questions before passing on information about another person: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If our words don’t pass this test, let’s refrain from speaking them. Gossip is a destructive and deadly sin. Gossip can kill a church. It can destroy our effectiveness for Christ and dishonor His name.
Proverbs 20:19 says,
A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. (NIV)
Let’s be a church that is characterized by speech that builds others up and is encouraging one another to Godliness.
Let’s avoid gossip and let’s not be guilty of talking about others in a way that dishonors God.
We also considered how Paul counseled younger widows to marry, bear children and take care of their homes. Are we encouraging ladies to fulfill their God given roles as women? Or are we guilty as our culture is of not valuing the importance of wives and mothers? Let’s make sure that we are all following God’s design for our homes and not letting society dictate the way we order our families.
Paul also reminds us once again of the importance of caring for our older parents and grandparents. We have a responsibility to care for those in our family and then when there isn’t family to care for older folks, we as a church need to look after their welfare.
We’ve addressed the proper treatment of older widows and younger widows in the church. We’ve also learned that some of the instruction for widows is applicable to the life of every believer. How are we doing? Are we busy doing the work God has intended for each one of us? Are we refraining from meddling in the affairs of others? Are we careful in the words that we speak? Do we avoid gossip? Not just spreading it, but not even listening to it? How are we doing in our homes? Are we ordering them according to God’s design? Or are we vulnerable to the attack of the enemy?
We don’t have to look far to find families under Satan’s attack because God has not had His rightful place in the home.
Are we also looking after our families and honoring our parents?
I pray that each of us would take to heart the truth of God’s Word we have learned today and make sure we are practicing it faithfully in our lives – to the glory of God.
1 Timothy 5:11-16
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
See also: Instruction for the Care Of Widows, Part 1
1 David Egner, “Out Of Work”, Our Daily Bread, January 8, 1997 [http://www.gospelcom.net/rbc/odb/odb-01-08-97.shtml]
2 Henry Bosch, “Godly Mothers”, Our Daily Bread, May 8, Bible.org [http://bible.org/illus/m/m-65.htm]
3 John F. MacArthur, Jr., Younger Women, Part 2, (Titus 2:3-5), [http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/young2.htm]