Focal Passages: 1 Timothy 5:1-10, 16-18
How do we treat others in our congregation? Paul’s wisdom to Timothy was to treat all with the utmost respect: older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, younger women as sisters, and older women as mothers. The greatest attention, however, was given to those older women who were 60 years or older. In those days there were no social security checks, life insurance payouts, IRA’s, 401-K’s, annuities, or pensions. Estate planning and women’s rights were not top priorities in the ancient Roman world. Thus, there was a great need for congregational intervention.
The first obligation of the church was to determine who qualified for assistance. Years earlier the infant church had intervened when Jewish widows were given preference over Gentile widows. Apparently that crisis had been adequately resolved, so in addition to an agreed upon age requirement, the next qualification was her previous marital status. Had she been faithful to her husband, and if she had remarried because of the death of a spouse, had she been faithful to him as well? Was she a “one-man woman?” Additionally, there was to be a determination of character. Had the widow served others well? Had she “relieved the afflicted” in some capacity? Was she recognized as a woman of deepest integrity and faith? Once these character requirements had met approval, the next issue was whether or not she had family that could and would provide for her needs. If her heirs had the resources to provide for her, the church would not circumvent their aid. But if not, the church had set up some type of benevolence fund. It’s much like a situation recently evidenced in our church. A saintly widow is provided for very well by her children, but her deacon also checks up on her, and during the recent snow, cleared her handicap ramp and put seed in her bird feeder. He understands that church leadership involves caring for others.