The verses for today's devotional are drawn from I Timothy and from Titus. Both books were authored by the Apostle Paul near the end of his life. Both were written to pastors. Timothy pastored the church at Ephesus and Paul was writing to instruct and encourage Timothy concerning problems that had arisen in regard to church doctrine, practice, government and certain aspects of Christian living. Titus was a gentile and the pastor of the church at Crete. Paul wrote to Titus to instruct him in regards to choosing elders and thier qualifications and to deal with many of the problems that face a servant of God. Interesting little note: At this time, churches still met in homes. There would be no church buildings until approximately 200 years later when Constantine put an end to the widespread persecution of Chirstians.
Today's passages are more an instruction into ages and stages of a woman's life, not directly tied to marriage. First, in 1Timothy 5 vs. 2-16 Paul instructs as to the care and the role of widows in the church. "Treat the older women as mothers, and the girls as your sisters, thinking only pure thoughts about them." Plain and simple, church isn't a meat market. Many of the pegan religions around used women as sex slaves in their "worship" of their gods. Paul is speaking directly to the men as to the proper attitude they should have toward the women in the church. Christ's leadership literally turned the world upside down as to the value and worth of women. He was the true women's liber!
Excerpt from vs. 3-16. in regards to older widows. "The church should take loving care of women whose husbands have died, if they don't have anyone else to help them. But if they have children or grandchildren, these are the ones who should take the responsibility, for kindness should begin at home, supporting needy parents. This is something that pleases God very much. The church should care for widows who are poor and alone in the world, if they are looking to God for his help and spending much time in prayer; but not if they are spending thier time running around gossiping, seeking only pleasure and thus ruining their souls......But anyone who won't care for his own relatives when they need help, especially those living in his own family, has no right to say he is a Christian.....a widows relatives must take care of her.......Then the church can spend its money for the care of widows who are all alone and have nowhere else to turn."
My pastor likes to say, if all the Christians and all the churches were living and giving the way Christ intended, we wouldn't need welfare, social security, medi-care and medi-caid. And he is most probably right. In the day that this was written, very few women had any means of support outside of their husbands. Traditions dating back to Abraham and Moses said that sons and/or brothers of the husband were to look after the widows. Most women without a man were consigned to utter poverty or felt compelled to turn to immoral means of support. Notice, Paul didn't say if she was a relative you liked you should help her. He didn't say if she'd always given to you. He said relatives were to help, period. Thanks to societies social programs, many widows no longer need financial support. But there are many ways we can honor and help them, doing things we know their spouses used to tend to. Trimming hedges, tuning up the car. And perhaps the biggest need.....to fill the void of loneliness with wholesome caring interaction. I don't know about where you live, but locally many times when someone is in need the local VFW post will host a benefit, bring out baskets of food, etc. Nice. But many of thier functions revolve around drinking and drunkeness. Most of the folks never darken the doorway of the church. It is sad to think that they could out give and help and organize the local church. But often times they do. This is no statement of condemnation agianst them, but one against the church and its members! We should be the "first responders".
It may sound harsh, but if the woman was not living the life of a Godly Chirstian woman, the church had no responsibility to support her. Lending support to someone says "I understand your circumstance." It implies agreement with their lifestyle and choices. We may want to say, "Well they still have needs!" That is true. But the biggest need any one has is the need of salvation and a personal relationship with Christ! If we aren't careful, we can "help" someone straight out of "needing" Him and straight into Hell. The original Tough Love.
Then Paul turns his attention toward the younger widows in particular, saying: "So I think it is better for these younger widows to marry again and have children, and take care of their own homes; then no one will be able to say anything against them. For I am afraid that some of them have already turned away from the church and been led astray by Satan."vs. 14 & 15.
Exactly what age is he referring to.....I don't know. But women in general often married at age 13 or 14 in this day. So a woman still in her teens or very early twenties could be a widow! We have needs. Emotional and physical. We can try to stuff them down and pretend they do not exist. But we will most likely fail. A young widow would have been fair game for irreptible men. There would be temptation to give thierselves away to satisify lusts or even just to have a night of companionship. A woman could live a purer life remarried. And a woman would have in general an easier, even longer life with the support of a new husband. And the possiblity of children to care for her in her old age.
In Titus, Paul turns his attention toward women in general in the church and their spiritual role. Older women, by age or spiritual maturity, were to mentor the younger ones in Godly living and their role as Christian wives. This puts the burden of being an example more squarely on the more mature women. In Titus 2:3 he states that older women should be "quiet and respectful in everything they do. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers, but they should be teachers of goodness." Basically they should be living out the Fruits of the Spirit. And bearing fruit in the lives of the younger women by coming alongside of them and guiding them as to how to walk the walk and apply the Truth in their daily lives. These Fruits, found in Galatians 5:22 & 23 include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Thru this example and mentoring the younger women learn to "...live quietly, to love their husband and their children, and to be sensible and clean minded, spending their time in their own homes, being kind and obedient to their husbands, so that the Christian faith can't be spoken against by those who know them." Every single one of us is a witness, has a witness. The question is, is our witness for Christ or against Him? Do we bring honor to His name, or hold Him up to ridicule? Do we live a lifestyle that makes it easier for us to stay true to God and our husbands, or do we flirt around on the fringes inviting temptation?
Sisters, I invite you today to look around you. If you know a widow or perhaps someone seperated from her husband by military service or work, reach out to her. Invite her to dinner. Ask her to ride into town with you. Take her a pie and visit while hubby or son does an odd job or two for her. Are you an older woman, mature in Christ? Don't shake your head at the things you see the young newlywed doing......come alongside her. Lead by example. Just start talking and share something from your own life and experience that might point her in the right direction. Be friendly and become a friend so that she can feel comfortable to ask your advice. Are you new to Christ or newly married? Do you wonder sometimes how "they" do it? Go to a woman in the church you respect and admire and ask her! More than likely, she'll be pleased and happy to share what she's learned and her "secrets" for making it look easy.