1Ti 5:9-12 “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.”
By the tone of Paul’s writing, the church has a responsibility to widows indeed (1Ti 5:3). He recognized the churches did not have limitless resources. Also, he saw the potential for the care of the church to be taken advantage of. Because of this, he laid out some clear guidelines.
As mentioned earlier, a widow indeed was one who had no other close family (children, nephews) to care for her. He elaborates here that she should not be under the age of sixty. Various writers have indicated that the Jews felt one had not reached “old age” until they had attained sixty years. So, a widow indeed did not have others to see to her care, and she was aged (to the point where custom found it likely that she would be able to care for herself or to marry again).
It was required that she had been faithful to her marriage commitment. She should have a good reputation in the church and the community. Her life was to be lived in a way that her good works were known. Since Jesus said that our works should glorify God (Mat 5:16), it is reasonable to expect that this was the report of her good works.
We should take note that Paul said one of her good works was that she had brought up children. He did not simply say that she should have given birth to children. As a matter of fact, a widow who had never had children of her own would not be exempted from the care of the church. The issue was that she had “brought up” children.
At issue here is that she was instrumental in guiding and instructing the children within her influence in living godly lives. We all know examples of people who have given birth to children but failed to bring them up. We also know people who never gave birth that have raised wonderful children. There are even those who not only brought up their children but took on the responsibility of bringing up others as well.
The idea of being hospitable occurs throughout the scriptures. It is one of the attributes of someone who would be a bishop (1Ti 3:2). Paul told us not to forget to entertain strangers (Heb 13:2). Entertaining (lodging) strangers is a good work, even for a widow indeed.
Whether the admonition to having washed the saints’ feet refers to the custom of seeing that guest’s feet were washed when they entered the house or a reference to that which Jesus did with the disciples, it is still a good work. It is a work of humility. We can easily entertain the idea that someone who is willingly humble in this fashion would also be someone who would offer succor to the afflicted.
While the aged widow might be diligent in these good works, the younger widows might not be as likely to do so. The younger widows would be in a better position to care for themselves. There would be a greater potential for them to marry again. There could even be a greater temptation for them to become less ardent in their following of Christ as they seek an easier path through life.
While Paul has given all these instructions concerning widows, surely, we can see teachings that should affect us all as individuals and as churches. We do not want to be guilty of abandoning the preeminence of Christ (first faith) in our lives. Only by holding Him first can we do the good works that are required of us. Through a firm commitment to Him, we can in every circumstance give Him glory. By His grace, we are found worthy of the care of the church.
May God bless us to be diligent in caring for those He has given us charge concerning to His honor and glory!