Terry Baxter Devotional

Becoming Family to Those Without Family: 1 Timothy 5:3-16

Becoming Family to Those Without Family: 1 Timothy 5:3-16
“3) Honor widows who are actually widows; 4) but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to show proper respect for their own family and to give back compensation to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5) Now she who is actually a widow and has been left alone has set her hope on God, and she continues in requests and prayers night and day. 6) But she who indulges herself in luxury is dead, even while she lives. 7) Give these instructions as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy‬ ‭5:3-8‬
Paul now begins a long section on the care of widows. The subject actually covers verses 3 through verse 16. This was an important issue in the early church.
Death came early for many in those days. Some died from sickness, disease and plagues. Others died from famine, accidents, violence or war. Many early Christians also lost homes and belongings from persecution and became refugees. Many were martyred.
They early church practiced Christian community in ways unknown by the modern church. How did they do it? They became family to those without families.
A quick review of Acts 6:1 shows that the Apostles took the care of widows very seriously. It might be noted that when Jesus was dying on the cross, He handed the care of His own widowed mother into the hands of John. (See John 19:25-27) He immediately took her into his own home and made her part of his family. This gesture set the tone for the early church.
There was no such thing as retirement funds, social security or nursing homes in those days. In fact, they are absent in many countries today. The American way is not the biblical way. God has a better plan to show value and dignity to people.
As we see from Paul’s writing to Timothy, extended family was responsible to care for widows who had no other means of sustenance. Family should take care of family. Well meaning government programs are often a very empty substitute for a sincere and loving family.
It appears from 1 Timothy 5:9 & 11 that they kept a formal list of widows who were cared for by the church. Some conclude from this that New Testament local churches actually kept some form of membership.
James 1:27 presents the case that both widows and orphans were officially under the care of the church body. History shows that the early church took this calling seriously. The early church was known for its care of widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor. This was a natural manifestation of Agape love. Let me stress it again; “They became family to those without family.”
But notice that 1 Timothy 5:5 sets a high standard of qualification for widows, not unlike the deaconesses. “5) Now she who is actually a widow and has been left alone has set her hope on God, and she continues in requests and prayers night and day.”
This is very reminiscent of Luke 2:36-38 that shows how highly regarded godly widows like Anna were in Israel. Godly widows most likely became pillars in the early church and possibly helped with the care and education of orphans. I suspect both widows and orphans were invited to become part of families in the church.
The balance of this text in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 deals with younger widows. Paul encouraged them to marry again, bear children and establish households. (See verses 11-16) This was in no way degrading to women, but rather stressed the value of motherhood and the importance of family in the early church. Strong churches are built on strong families.
A very simple understanding of Christian Ministry might be to “become family to those without family.” Modern culture is starved for family love, encouragement and nurture. This is a very rewarding and fruitful ministry.
We have always practiced an open home policy at the Baxter house for meals, holidays and often lodging. God has used this to make us rich in friendships and many have come to Jesus through simple hospitality.
Many of our natural kids who are married have carried on this tradition. People today are starved for family love, affirmation and values. Becoming family to those without family puts Agape love and the gospel in shoe leather like nothing else.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global