International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday March 27, 2011
Purpose: To identify how the worship of God shapes and orders the common life of families and the larger family of God.
Scripture Text: I Timothy 5:1-8,17-22 (NRSV)
1 Timothy 5:1-8,
(1)Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, (2) to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity. (3)Honor widows who are really widows. (4)If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God’s sight. (5)The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; (6) but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (7)Give these commands as well, so that they may be above reproach. (8)And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5: 17-22
(17)Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; (18)for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.” (19)Never accept any accusation against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (20)As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear. (21)In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, I warn you to keep these instructions without prejudice, doing nothing on the basis of partiality. (22)Do not ordain anyone hastily, and do not participate in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Just a few weeks ago a famous Hollywood icon appeared before congress complaining of “elder abuse.” He pleaded with congress to end this terrible abuse quickly. You can read the article at: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/entertainment/post/2011/03/mickey-rooney-tells-senate-he-suffered-elder-abuse/1.
The problem of elder abuse is real and it happens in families of all types, rich or poor, but it is not new to our generation, which is why Paul took time to instruct Timothy about this problem.
Paul's advise is good advice and something all of us can carry out, the way we speak to our elders should be respectful and with love. This is not just for our family and our parents and grandparents but for all of those we come in contact with. Paul also includes younger women, who should be treated with “absolute purity.” Since this was written to Timothy, I am certain you could also apply this to young men, if a female is carrying out God’s mission.
When Paul uses the words “really widows” he is asking Timothy to check some things out, just as we have welfare abuse today, in the first century there were also attempts to get around the system and take advantage of the early church's generosity.
If you read verse 9 of this chapter, you will see that Paul sets an age limit of over 60 years old, and limits the marriages to just one man. He issues further restrictions in verse 10; a widow is expected to be productive and benevolent with what she has. He also warns against the younger widows, who end up just being “gossips and busybodies.”
Paul thought that the best solution (verse 14) was for the younger widows to marry quickly and start a new family. This was not only good for the community but also it kept them from the temptation of becoming a women just seeking pleasure.
What Paul was suggesting was not new, it was required from the Old Testament that widows are taken care of by the families first and it no family was available, then the church should step in and see that the needs were met for those that were in real need. (Exodus 22:22) “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.” (Isaiah 1:17) learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. (Psalm 146:9) The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Starting with verse 17 of our lesson, Paul is speaking about those that hold a position within the church, not about people who are older. Those that are employed and did a good job should receive a double portion, for their labor, especially those that are teachers and preachers. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 about not muzzling the ox that is tramping out the grain and he also quotes from Jesus' words to his disciples (Luke 10:7) when he is sending them out to spread the “good news” during His ministry.
Paul warns about believing everything you hear about church leaders and seeking testimony from more than one person to substantiate any charges. If they are guilty of persistently sinning, then the whole church should be informed publicly. That would serve not only as an embarrassment for the offender, but also as a warning for those that might have been leaning in that direction. The hardest part of administering this kind of justice is doing it without prejudice, sometimes we are prone to wink at sins of close friends and family.
Paul's final instruction on this is “don't be too hasty to ordain anyone”, let’s see out they live with some limelight before we ordain them, and above all keep yourself pure.
The question generated by this passage might be; “Which is thicker blood or water?” Before you answer too hastily, remember your baptism.