· A person of faith who fails to care for the needs of his relatives is similar to rejecting one’s faith. Such a person is worse than those who never profess faith in the first place. What creates difficulties for us is the rigorous tone of this instruction and the finality that seems to be attached to one’s failure in following the instruction.
· A related difficulty — in light of Paul’s insistence that salvation is by faith and not by works — is the close connection in this verse between a very particular action (or “work”) and one’s faith, and therefore one’s salvation. Can one’s action affect one’s salvation?
· 1Ti 5:3-16 shows Paul’s concern about widows in the church. In the ancient world, particularly due to patriarchal family and social structures, there were few honourable jobs for women, so that widows were usually unable to support themselves.
· It is clear from the Old Testament that God has a special concern for the oppressed and the powerless, especially the fatherless and widows (Dt 10:18; 24:17; Ps 68:5; Is 1:17).
· Paul distinguishes between “widows who are really in need” (5:3) and those who have family able to care for them (5:4). The responsibility for caring for the helpless naturally falls first on their families (children or grandchildren). Paul stresses the importance of families caring for the needs of widows. Only when that assistance is not available (5:5) does the church become responsible (5:16).
· Apparently some older widows had been “put on the list of widows” (5:9), meaning that they had taken a vow committing themselves to work for the church in exchange for financial support.
· Paul grounds that instruction of family responsibility in two ways. First, such action is “pleasing to God” (5:4). The imperative to care for parents was derived from the fifth commandment, and obedience to the commandment was understood to bring with it God’s blessing. Second, one’s faith must find expression in concrete action and relationships.
· The Old Testament teaches that a right relationship with God is expressed in being just (Amos 5:24), and merciful (Mic 6:8).
· The New Testament teaches good works grounded on faith:
· Jesus says that we shall be known by the fruit we bear (Mt 7:16-18).
· The world will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we genuinely love one another (Jn 13:35).
· God’s forgiving, reconciling work must be expressed in our relationships (Mt 5:23-24).
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· Faith that is not evidenced in deeds is judged to be dead, inauthentic faith (Jas 2:14-17).
· The phrase “to be worse than an unbeliever” implies that even unbelievers normally are expected to care for those of their own households. Neglecting this responsibility is equivalent to a denial of the faith and thus acting “worse than” unbelievers. It does not mean that such action would result in the loss of salvation. It does mean that someone who acts like this does not practise his faith.
· Our faith includes repentence from our old sinful ways and taking Jesus as Lord of our lives. It is doubtful whethere a person who professes to be a Christian but continues to live a sinful life and not practise his faith is truly saved.
· The church should support those who have no families and should also help the elderly, disabled, ill, or poverty-stricken. While today’s society may provide for most of their physical needs, they also need our support in their emotional and spiritual needs. Families who care for their own helpless members have heavy burdens. They may need extra money, a listening ear, a helping hand, or a word of encouragement. Interestingly, those who are helped often turn around and help others, turning the church into a caring community.
· Are you doing your part to meet the needs of those included in your family circle?
· Three out of four wives today eventually are widowed. Does our church provide an avenue of service for these women? Could we help match their gifts and abilities with the church’s needs? Often their maturity and wisdom can be of great service in the church.