1 Timothy 5:9-16
Historical Insight: As early as Acts 6, the church had established a charitable outreach to widows. Now 30 years later the ministry to widows, of whom there were no doubt many, showed signs of being a major burden to the congregation. Paul was therefore eager in this passage to identify those who did not truly need help in order to leave enough for those who did.
Scripture has much to say about widows and honors them in a way that most cultures do not. Too often a married woman is defined only in relation to her husband. Then if he dies, she loses not only her spouse but her social significance as well. In Scripture, however, widows, orphans and aliens (people without husband, parents or home) are valued for who they are in themselves, and are said to deserve special honor, protection and care. Throughout the Bible justice and love are demanded for them. God is described as “a father to the fatherless” and a “defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5); and it is written of him that “he defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Because this is the kind of God he is, his people are to be the same. (Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, pg. 742 and Fighting the Good Fight by John Stott)
1. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-16. From verses 5 and 9-10, list the qualifications for a widow to be put “on the list” to qualify for assistance from the church. [For further commentary on this “list,” see the information box on the next page.] Use the following categories (some qualifications may be listed in more than one area.)
2. What is important about each of these qualifications?
Scriptural Insight: The pledge Paul referred to (1 Timothy 5:12) was probably a formal commitment, taken on joining the list of widows, wherein the woman vowed to serve Christ entirely without thought of marriage. In this way she would devote herself without distraction to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:34-35). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, pg. 743)
3. Read Luke 2:36-38 for an example of a godly widow in scripture. How old was she? What does this passage say she was continuing to do regularly?
4. Read Isaiah 46:4. What does this verse tell us about God and our relationship to Him as we continue to grow older?
5. Adorning Yourself: What do you picture yourself doing at age 60, 70, 80 or more? If you haven’t given this area much thought, do so, and share with your group.
6. Referring back to 1 Timothy 5:11-13, discuss the reasons Paul gives for not putting younger widows on the list.
7. How does this list compare with the list from question 1?
8. Do you think that either “opportunities for ministry” or “opportunities for misery” are limited to any certain age group? Or, marital status? Or, even to any certain gender? Explain your answer.
9. What are the temptations faced by a married woman when she no longer has a husband, either through death or divorce? How can she best respond?
10. Adorning Yourself: How do you deal with a friend, coworker, neighbor (or your own self) who tends to direct conversation toward gossip or “things not proper to mention” (verse 13)?
11. How do you determine what is proper to talk about and what isn’t? Share any scripture which helps you in this area, or look up Proverbs 20:19 or James 3:5-10 for some help.
12. Read 1 Timothy 5:14-16. Paul has just gotten through listing some of the danger zones young widows face, now on the side of worthy investments of time, what does Paul say he wants younger widows to do, according to 1 Timothy 5:14?
13. What evidence do we have that Paul wasn’t just sounding a false alarm or even being overly critical of younger widows? (Refer back to 1 Timothy 5:15 if needed.)
14. These options for women were the common experience for a younger woman of Paul’s culture. What other good options might be available to a young widow in today’s culture?
15. Verse 16 serves as a summary. Rewrite this verse using your own words.
16. Adorning Yourself: What general principles do the verses here teach you about offering care and help to people in need (especially to widows, or our own families, and in our own churches)?