Opening Prayer

Open my heart to the needs of others so that I am generous with my gifts in ways that truly are a blessing and bring you praise.

Read 1 TIMOTHY 5:1-16

Widows, Elders and Slaves

5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

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‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.’1

Think Further

Sometimes the chapter breaks in the Bible can be unhelpful. Paul continues to address Timothy’s youthful leadership as he instructs on appropriate conduct in the church family. John Stott’s advice to those given responsibility beyond their years is that sensitivity to different age ranges will lead to others gratefully receiving your ministry.2 The guidelines to Timothy for leading the church community come with warnings. The dangers of the misappropriation of power (v 1), sex (v 2), and money (v 8) undergird this teaching. Little has changed.

What follows are detailed instructions on the provision for widows, who at that time would likely have been the neediest group. This would particularly have been so for those who had become Christians, as they might well have been disowned by their families. In a world without the provision of state social welfare, it is easy to see how a Christian widow would be so vulnerable. Paul writes as one who had significant experience in helping the early church to organize community life. His specific advice is fascinating and I’d encourage you to consult a commentary to learn about the world in which he lived.

The issue in your particular community may not be the provision for widows, but I wonder who the ‘least and the lowest’ are within your reach? This is a challenge for the church of the twenty‑first century. Paul is clear that it is a fundamental Christian duty to provide for our relatives (v 8), but should there be those who lack such support, then the church needs to step up. Paul is renowned for his doctrinal prowess, but his attention to social responsibility could be easily overlooked. In this letter we see how the gospel message should spill over into social outreach. May we respond accordingly.


What does the Lord require of you? Micah 6:8 may help.

Closing prayer

Creator God, thank you for who you have made me and for my gifts that come from your hand. Direct me where you would use me and show me how to share my gifts with others.

Last Updated on September 8, 2023 by kingstar

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