Paul addresses a challenging issue with Timothy in this chapter in that he points out which widows should be helped financially by the church and which should not. In this time, there isn’t a governmental support system or other programs, so the church would be the best opportunity for someone to receive support when they are in need.
Here is what Paul said and then I will list some of the principles that I take away from this below:
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, 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.
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. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 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. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
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.1 Timothy 5:3-16
Here are some of the important things that I see in this passage:
- It is important to meet the needs of those who are truly in need. The church’s resources should be used for this.
- There are a series of restrictions that should be considered based on a person’s situation. These include:
- The person should care for their own family.
- They shouldn’t just be living idly or for their own pleasure and not working.
- Age as a consideration. Paul specifically mentions that the woman must be over 60.
I do also notice that Paul really only considers widows. He doesn’t even mention men in this case. I don’t know if this is because he believes that the men should all be able to work to support themselves or if that just wasn’t done in their case, but it is interesting that this is the case.
In the end, I don’t know that the church should consider these as **the rules** for giving. However, it does seem that there are principles here that we can use as we consider how the church should give to others and to whom funds might be given.