The Habit of Being Idle

It is difficult to see a need and, having the ability to fill the need, not fill it. But there are times, of course, when it makes more sense to not fill a need because there it is better over the longer term to have the other person do it for themselves.

We can acknowledge, of course, that there are frequently situations that prevent a person from being able to provide well for themselves, or at least as well as you might assume that they should be able to do. For example, some people don’t have a support system of family or friends around them. Others may not have the benefit of reliable transportation or communication tools. And still others may have challenges with their health that prevent them from doing what we might normally be able to do.

These circumstances each introduce new challenges, but the overall concept still largely remains the same. If it is possible for that person to provide for themselves, then they should. Otherwise, we risk introducing new problems of dependency into that person’s life. We should, of course, be generous within the church and help those in need but at the same time, we should also see need in other ways. It could be that a need could be filled by helping a person become activated in caring for themself, and therefore, even beyond providing for basic needs such as food and shelter, they also build their confidence so that they believe that they can do more, be more, than what they have been up to now.

A Timeless Problem

It seems that Paul and his leaders dealt with similar types of problems. As Paul wrote to Timothy, he points out that there are some people, most especially certain widows, who have legitimate needs, and who need to be cared for by the church. But there are others who should work, or who should be supported by their own family, or even those widows who are still young enough that they should remarry and care for their own families.

Here is the specific part of Paul’s letter to Timothy where he addresses this issue:

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.

1 Timothy 5:11-14

This may seem obvious as we read this letter. Yes, of course the younger widows should figure out how to support themselves. Yes, it makes sense that they should remarry, have children, and manage their homes. Of course they should avoid being idle or busy-bodies.

But when we are in the midst of the situation, we don’t always see these solutions. We might find it difficult to send someone away to care for themselves. We might find it easier to say Yes than to say No, in which case we may cause more and deeper problems than we have solved.

Let’s look for solutions to equip and empower the people of the church and prevent each one from falling into the habit of being idle.

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