1 Timothy 5

1 While Timothy is to not be timid about teaching and discipline, he is not to forget to respect people. Paul uses the metaphor of the church as an ideal family to describe how relationships should be handled. In the East, respect for parents is ingrained in the culture. It would be a very serious matter if a family member harshly criticized the head of the household. Obviously, fathers were not always right, and the son could certainly attempt to persuade him to correct something, but it was to be done with proper respect. Timothy was to correct older men in the congregation in this same manner.
With younger men, he is to behave as he would towards his own brother. He is to approach rebukes in a loving and caring manner, not as if he were speaking to a stranger or an enemy.
2 Likewise, Timothy was to speak with older women with the respect he would give his mother, and younger women as if they were sisters. Paul reminds Timothy to deal with women in a pure manner. Scandal is inappropriate in the church, especially for its ministers. Again, the Christian community is to be held together by love. Ministers should strive to keep "the family" together, not to be eager to argue, embarrass, or expel members of the congregation.
3 God has always expected His people to care for those who were vulnerable and impoverished. Widows are mentioned frequently as those who should be supported and helped. Paul extends this responsibility to Timothy, who would likely delegate this ministry to others in the church. Paul's definition of a widow worthy of church support is a woman who is "bereaved," and Paul defines this further in the following verses.
4 Widows that should not need to be supported by the church include those who have living children or grandchildren. With the assumption that these offspring are also Christians, Paul expects that they would support their widowed mother or grandmother as part of their service to God. The child could additionally consider it a repayment to their parents for the nurturing he or she received during childhood.
5 A true widow is one who has no family to care for her and no prospects of finding another husband. She must have shown that she has dedicated her life to God and be known to pray often. Such a widow is truly dependent on God and the help He can provide through His people. Anna the prophetess would have been the type of widow that would have qualified to receive support from the church (Luke 2:36-37).
6 Not all widows will want to live the rest of their lives for God. Instead, they want to indulge in all kinds of pleasures and live luxuriously. In God's view, however, selfish and ungodly living is not living at all. Physically, she is alive but spiritually, she has stopped growing and is of no true benefit to anyone else.
7 Timothy was to teach this to the church as well. Even pagans would find it appalling to hear that someone who was able to care of their widowed mother or grandmother refused to do so. Christians are to avoid this kind of reproach. Likewise, it would be scandalous for the church to support selfish and extravagant widows.
8 Paul increases the importance of this teaching by linking it directly with one's faith. Essentially, he is saying that if someone is not willing to care for his own household, implying those dependent on him - both his immediate family and closely related widows, then he is not a Christian. Not only is such a neglectful attitude considered a denial of Christ and a violation several commands that He spoke, it also makes the person worse than an unbeliever since he is refusing to follow common family and social expectations. Paul makes it obvious that it is possible to deny Christ through the neglect of Christian duties just as easily as one could deny Him through words. The church would suffer great damage to its reputation if it allowed its members to carry on in such a manner. As Barnes puts it, "A Christian ought not to be inferior to an unbeliever in respect to any virtue."
9 Paul then lists other qualifications for a widow that can qualify for church support. First, she must be old, at least 60, and truly past the age where she is likely to be remarried. Paul expands on this more in verses 11-14.
The next qualification is that she had been a "one-man woman." While men in that society could be polygamous, women did not have had the option of having two or more spouses at the same time. Thus, this phrase is one that implies marital faithfulness and no divorces, as was required for overseers and deacons (1 Tim 3:2).
Several hold to the view that this phrase restricts a woman to having only had one husband throughout her life, but there are no legal or moral implications against a widow who remarried, only to find herself widowed again later in life (Rom 7:2-3). Both pagan and Jewish traditions held a widow in high esteem who remained chaste to her first husband by never remarrying, but in verse 14, Paul encourages young widows to remarry. It would seem unscrupulous for him to do so knowing that if the woman ended up widowed again, possibly again destitute, that she would never be qualified for church help in her old age.
10 Finally, a widow qualified to receive help from the church should be known for her good deeds. Paul lists several here. Some have looked at these examples and considered them expensive to carry out, indicating that these widows had financial means. However, that would seem contrary to the idea that these women needed financial support. Besides, there are possible answers to this. First, the activities here do not necessarily require great expense. Small amount of material goods combined with plenty of personal time and work could satisfy these examples. Second, Paul is speaking of her reputation, meaning that the acts had already been done - most likely before she became destitute.
  • Brought Up Children - The woman may have had and brought up her own children, only to have them die before she did. This may also refer to helping others bring up their children.
  • Shown Hospitality To Strangers - Hospitality was expected in the East. A traveling stranger would expect to find someone to bring him into their house, feed him and his animals, and give him lodging for the night. People who were known to open their homes were highly revered.
  • Washed the Saints' Feet - In that region, people wore sandals or went barefoot. After any amount of traveling, their feet would be dirty. It was typical for one to remove his sandals when entering a home, so the host would provide water for visitors to wash their feet with. It was also common for the wife or a household servant to wash the guests feet. Some of the implications of this phrase are that the woman had been hospitable to Christians as well as strangers and that she had invited people to her home and provided every courtesy to them.
  • Assisted Those In Distress - Of course, people always have problems. People get sick, hurt, and in other ways distressed. People die and those remaining will mourn. A woman of excellence will be there to comfort and help in any way she can. She is sympathetic and caring.
Women with these kinds of qualities would be the kind that deserved help from the church if they ever became destitute widows.
11 It appears that when widows came under the care of the church that they took a pledge to remain in their widowhood and devote themselves to prayer and work in the church. The primary reason Paul did not want younger widows to make this kind of commitment was that they would likely later want to break the "restraint" they were under and remarry. In doing so, they would break their vow to serve Christ only.One thing that does seem unusual about this entire section is that throughout the Bible, righteous people are encouraged, and even commanded to take care of widows, orphans, and the poor in general. Why then are all these restrictions placed on widows here? Perhaps the most likely explanation is that these women would specifically be working in the church, and would receive their support directly from the church's budget. There do not appear to be any restrictions on individual continuing to support those in need. Therefore, while it was likely that any Christian could help younger or even pagan widows, the church as an organization could only officially support Christian widows with the most excellent qualities.
12 Again, it is clear that the church support of widows was not intended to be a temporary measure to help them "get back on their feet." Instead, it was to be a lifelong commitment to serve in the church. If such a widow were to break her vow and remarry, then she would incur guilt. This does not mean she would lose her salvation, but it would be considered a sin.
13 Church-supported widows would likely go from house to house teaching the younger women, tending the sick, and otherwise being helpful. However, Paul felt that younger widows would be more prone to engaging in idle gossip. Perhaps he thought that younger women liked the stimulation of gossip and romantic thoughts. As they traveled about, they would learn family secrets and might be tempted to share those facts with others that she visits and meddle in other peoples' affairs. He was also apparently afraid that these women would lose all desire to work - even any useful work related to the church. They might become more interested in visiting others to gossip with rather than work. Since they were completely supported by the church, they may become lazy, feeling that they no longer needed to put out any effort. Perhaps Paul felt that the older widows would be wiser - recognizing the lack of value in such idleness and meaningless conversation.
14 Instead of putting younger widows on the list of those to be supported by the church, Paul encourages them to get married and establish a home and family. In this way, the enemy, indicated as Satan in the next verse, will have fewer options to bring sin and shame into the church.
Paul does not give this as an absolute command, but it is obvious that he felt that it should be the general practice. It is clear from this verse that the remarriage of a widow is neither legally or morally wrong. In fact, it is more likely to prevent problems for both the widow and the church. The contrary counsel in 1 Cor 7:8-9, 39-40 is obviously an exception to remarriage for those who are content in their widowhood, but they would still not be added to this list of widows.
15 Paul is speaking from experience. Apparently, some congregations had put younger widows on church support only to have them begin engaging in the evil activities listed above. Weather these women had really gone as far as to denounce Christianity to worship pagan gods is not clear. At the very least, they followed Satan to the extent of practicing evil. Establishing and running churches must have been a learning experience for everyone, including the apostles.
16 Paul reiterates verse 4, emphasizing the believer's responsibility to take care of widowed relatives. There is obviously a difference in opinion on how this verse should be translated. Many versions use the phrase "man or woman," but others only indicate a "woman" believer. I have not found any explanation for the difference. In Jewish society it was the oldest son's responsibility to become head of the household and take care of his widowed mother when his father died, as possibly alluded to in verse 8. Perhaps Paul means to indicate that women should also take responsibility for their widowed relatives instead of leaving this duty completely to the men.
17 Paul not turns his attention to how members of a church congregation should treat those who preside over them. It is most likely that a group of older, pious men were selected to handle overall church affairs as "the elders." Some would focus on teaching and preaching while others would organize other aspects of the church's life. Those who ruled well by selflessly devoting themselves to the work of Christ to build up others were worthy of "double honor." Besides the respect and obedience one should give to those in authority, Paul is likely indicating that the congregation should honor good leaders financially as well. As an elder served the church more, he would earn less money from his original occupation. Those who served the church full time would not have any source of income at all. Thus, if the congregation wanted their good rulers to continue to lead them, they should make it possible through financial support. Those who were gifted to educate others spiritually should especially be honored, since the knowledge of Christ that they are able to impart is the most important part of Christian living.
18 Paul gives a much longer explanation of why ministers should be supported by their congregations in 1 Cor 9:3-14. God commands in Deu 25:4 that the ox used in harvesting and preparing grain should be allowed to eat while it works. Likewise, those who labor to benefit others should be supported by those he works for. Paul then possibly quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7, where He tells His disciples how they should carry out their ministry. The point was that they should not take their own food and extra clothes from home and lug them around with them on their journey, but that they should receive food, clothing, and shelter from those they preach to. This might also be the natural conclusion of verses like Lev 19:13, where it is clear that those who have people work for them are obligated to quickly pay for the labor they receive.
19 Elders are allowed to have the same legal rights as everyone else. According to a Jewish law stated in Deu 19:15, only the testimony of two or more people can convict someone of a crime. This is an important safeguard since it would be easier for one person to mistakenly interpret an action than two. It is also easer for one malcontent to bring a false charge against someone than to organize a conspiracy. The church was to handle complaints against elders internally, and this extends Paul's counsel to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 5:11-6:5. The responsibility of judging such cases probably fell to the elders most often, but one would expect that an apostle or the apostle's appointee, in this case Timothy, would have decided the case if they were currently presiding there.
20 If an elder, or any member of the congregation, is found guilty of a sin, he is to be confronted. Here, Paul mentions the third step of Jesus' instructions for such confrontations (Mat 18:15-17). The positive objective is to win the offender back and reconcile him to God and the congregation. However, as Paul mentions here, the negative side is to prevent sinful behavior from spreading. Fear of public exposure may be a powerful deterrent for some people.
21 Paul emphasizes the significance of these principles by invoking God, Jesus, and the angels to serve as witnesses to his charge to follow them without regard to people. Whether someone is rich or poor, famous or common, they are not to be appointed to offices they do not qualify for, nor are they to escape a prescribed discipline for any sins they might commit. Timothy was not to render any judgments tainted by esteem or pity. He was not to be lax or intimidated by anyone as he carried out his duties during his ministry.
22 In this letter, Paul had already given detailed criteria for determining who could be put into a leadership position. Still, he reminds Timothy to not to sanctify people for ministry too quickly. It takes time to interact with people, their families, and friends to find out if they are consistent in their commitment to God both inside and outside church situations. If a leader turns out to be wicked, those who appointed him share in the responsibility and guilt. If only those who have passed trials of scrutiny are appointed leaders, it is less likely that any will need to be rebuked (verse 20).
23 This verse seems abruptly out of place. Some have thought that a later writer may have added it, but there is no other evidence for this than its seeming oddness of location. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that Paul had this thought while writing and wanted to put it on paper before he forgot about it.
Timothy was apparently struck with frequent illnesses, and it is evident that he refused to use wine, a common treatment, for his infirmities. Jewish priests were not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages while ministering before God (Lev 10:9), so it is perfectly reasonable to believe that early Christian leaders felt the same obligation. In addition, Timothy, being part Greek, may have been following one of their social traditions that prohibited youths from imbibing. However, Paul encourages Timothy to mix a little wine with his water as a remedy. Obviously, the medicinal use of wine this is not an excuse for overindulgence in alcohol, as has already been outlined in 1 Tim 3:3.

Both Paul and Timothy suffered various afflictions, which leads us to the conclusion that Christian leaders, even those whom God uses to heal others, are not exempt from physical ailments. At least some of Paul's problems were meant to help him grow in faith (2 Cor 12:7-9), but Timothy's illnesses were merely debilitating annoyances. Paul believed that a healthy leader is more likely to be effective than a sickly one, and so he encouraged Timothy to seek medical attention as needed. Some Christians refuse all medical treatments, feeling that anything less that faith and prayer as prescribed in James 5:14-15 would be a denial of God's power. However, asking for a physician's help, rather than denying one's faith, gives God another avenue to work healing through. Luke, the doctor, traveled with Paul and his other companions on mission trips (Col 4:14). Even Jesus speaks of the sick seeking a physician as proverbial common sense (Mat 9:12).

24 Returning to the idea of being careful about appointing leaders, Paul reminds Timothy that there are those who's sins are obvious, and those who's sins will not be revealed until Judgment Day. Wicked people may use deception to hide their true motives.
25 Likewise, the good character of some is obvious, while others practice their good deeds unobtrusively. These hidden good deeds will also be revealed on Judgment Day. The point Paul is making in these two verses is that it takes time to reveal one's character. There may be many people who are qualified for ministry, but because their deeds are unknown, they may be overlooked as candidates. On the other hand, some might have desirable characteristics - possibly even just the willingness to participate, but their character could end up doing more damage than good. The difficulty and responsibility of choosing good leaders is enormous, but very important.