1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 5:8

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.

(a) Anyone does not provide for his own is a louse. We can’t meet the needs of everyone, but we can help and care for those around us. Every person draws a circle around themselves. A Christlike man and woman widens the circle to include those in their household, community, and beyond. Jesus drew a circle around the whole world.

In context, Paul is saying “take care of the widows in your family” (see 1 Tim. 5:4). In the first-century, when young girls were typically not educated, a woman who lost her husband faced deprivation and hardship. The early church addressed this injustice by instituting support mechanisms that were centuries ahead of their time.

(b) He has denied the faith. A self-absorbed Christian who cares for no one beyond himself is not acting like the person Christ has made them to be. They have not lost their salvation, but they are a poor advertisement for Jesus.

(c) Worse than an unbeliever. You hardly need to be a Christian to love and care for your own household (Matt. 7:11), so a Christian who fails to do that is a poor Christian indeed.

1 Timothy 5:9

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man,

(a) The list. In the pagan world women outnumbered men on account of war and violence, so widows were often married off to men who already had wives. In opposing this practice of polygamy (1 Tim. 3:2), the church had to come up with an alternative solution, and that remedy was “the list.” Widows were added to a list and supported by the church.

(b) Not less than sixty years old. While the church ought to support older widows who had a good reputation (see next verse), Paul reasoned that younger widows would be in a position to remarry or otherwise support themselves.

1 Timothy 5:11

But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married,

(a) Refuse to put younger widows on the list. In Paul’s experience, it was not a good idea to put young widows on the list because they would remarry as soon as they could. In any case, remarriage was preferable to receiving financial support from the church (1 Tim. 5:14).

(b) The list; see entry for 1 Tim. 5:9.

1 Timothy 5:12

thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge.

(a) Incurring condemnation. A young widow has prospects that an older widow lacks and Paul understood this. “Putting young widows on the list creates problems. Any commitment they make to the church is discarded as soon as a suitable husband comes along.”

(b) Their previous pledge. A widow who was added to the list of supported widows was expected to serve the church in some way, perhaps by providing hospitality to visiting ministers or by serving the poor (see Acts 9:36). A young widow would neglect these responsibilities as soon as she found someone to marry.

1 Timothy 5:14

Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;

(a) Bear children: Being a mother and a homemaker is preferable to being an idle busybody (1 Tim. 5:13).

In the Greek-speaking world that Paul inhabited, young women had far fewer opportunities than they have today. In the misogynistic city of Athens, for instance, a teenage girl had three career options; she could become a mother, a maid, or a prostitute. Paul’s advice: “Be a mom.”

(b) Give the enemy no occasion for reproach; see next verse.

1 Timothy 5:15

for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.

Young widows who went from house to house stirring up gossip and talking about things that were none of their business (1 Tim. 5:13) were basically doing the devil’s work. Instead of raising families, building the church, or serving the poor, they were creating headaches for others and sowing the seeds of dissension.

1 Timothy 5:16

If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

Widows. In the ancient world, polygamy was seen as a solution to the need to provide for women who had lost husbands to warfare and disease. Since the early church opposed polygamy (1 Cor. 7:2), it had to solve the problem of what to do with young widows. In short, it developed practices for taking care of them (Acts 6:1–4).

1 Timothy 5:17

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

(a) Elders. An elder or overseer is responsible for shepherding the church, a role they fulfil primarily by setting a good example, by teaching and praying for the sick (Tit. 1:9, 1 Pet. 5:1, 3, Jas. 5:14).

(b) Rule. The original word (proistemi) means to stand before in the sense of watching over. It does not mean ruling or lording it over people (Matt. 20:25–25). Elders watch over the flock in the same way fathers watch over their children (1 Tim. 3:4). They lead by setting an example that inspires others to follow (1 Cor. 11:1, 1 Pet. 5:3).

(c) Double honor. Those who work hard should be remunerated better than those who don’t work hard.

(d) Preaching. The original word (logos) means word and is not one of the three New Testament words which are usually translated as preaching (see entry for Acts 5:42).

(e) Teaching; see entry for 1 Tim. 4:13.

1 Timothy 5:18

For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

(a) Muzzle the ox. If the Law of Moses provided for the lowly ox (Deut.25:4), how much more should a minister of the gospel be fed and supported by the gospel (see entry for 1 Cor. 9:14).

(b) “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Paul is quoting Jesus (Matt. 10:10, Luke 10:7).

(c) Wages. The original word (misthos) is the same word that is translated reward in 1 Corinthians 3:8, 14.

1 Timothy 5:22

Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

Hastily. Don’t rush people into positions of leadership. Don’t ordain some clown with issues that will hurt the church and make you look like an idiot for choosing them. Test them first (1 Tim. 3:10).

1 Timothy 5:23

No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

(a) No longer drink water exclusively. Clean drinking water was rare in the first-century. Not everyone had access to spring water or a well-designed aqueduct. For this reason, many people added vinegar or a little wine to their water.

(b) Use a little wine. Timothy, like Paul, travelled often. If all he drank was local water, he was likely to suffer bacterial infections and illness. Paul, the more seasoned traveller, advised Timothy to drink wine instead for the sake of his health. Wine has antibacterial properties, and was a safer alternative, especially for someone who frequently suffered from the first-century equivalent of Delhi Belly.

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