1 Timothy 5:16-21
16 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.
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.”[b] 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
We now end the discussion about widows with an admonition to those women who may be taking care of widows in their own homes. These women are special to me. Either their husbands have allowed them to have such a ministry, or they too are widows and have decided to give of their substance to help someone else in need. As we discussed before, widows were in trouble back in this day if they had no means passed down from their husband. They could not own land and often other possessions would go to the brothers of the deceased and not necessarily to their wife. The women who took in widows are indeed a rare breed, filled with mercy and compassion. This helped alleviate the church of the burden.
How many of us are willing to take someone in who is unrelated and in desperate need of being kept? I would guess there are not many. In today’s world, we would put ourselves in a very awkward position by taking someone in and caring for them. First of all, if things don’t work out it might be hard to get them out of our house. Second, they may take advantage of our generosity and use us, almost abuse our good intentions. Third, they could actually take over our home and kick us out – it has happened. It takes an incredible amount of courage and faith in today’s world to do something like that, and it did in those days too. If you know of someone who is caring for an unrelated person in their home, pray for them.
Next, to the elders. The word elder refers to a seasoned man who has sound judgement. I think we all would agree that elders in the church need to meet this standard. It is never recommended that a young man without much acquired wisdom should be appointed as an elder. In 1 Kings 12 we read of Rehoboams decision to follow the advice of the young men who he ran with rather than the elders that had served the country for years. The result of this split up the country to two pieces and they never got back together again until the 20th century. It was a disaster! This is a lesson we all need to heed carefully. The selection of elders is critical to the future of our churches. Make sure you are choosing men of wisdom and seasoning that will bring sound reason and spiritual understanding when a decision must be made.
This also goes true in our own lives. We all must be careful who we ask advice from when important decisions come around. Look for men with wisdom and integrity to guide you through life. Maybe a pastor, or that elder in your church who you look up to. This is one way to give the double honor to them that Paul mentions here. Trusting in them for guidance is showing them honor.
Another way to show those elders honor is to show up for church and special activities whenever possible. When services are being held, we show our Pastor and the elders honor by being there and being involved. If one of the elders happens to be a teacher also let him know how much you appreciate his commitment to the church. If he teaches your class, be involved in the discussion. This lets him know you are paying attention. Listening to someone gives honor to them. If a church workday is planned, being there to help clean and repair the things in the church shows the elders honor. These men work hard to build a spiritual foundation for the church and it is our job to make sure the physical building is in good order. The elders deserve more than lip service – they deserve our appreciation. Often, they are held to a higher standard, especially if they are teaching as well. The least we can do is show them the honor they deserve.
If someone comes up to you with an accusation against an elder, and you hear nothing else about it, then you should ignore that accusation. People are cruel, to be honest, and they will often go to great lengths to bring others down to their level. It’s not uncommon at all for someone to either make up an accusation or read into a situation something that is just not true. I was just watching an episode of “When Calls the Heart” last night with my wife (we love that show). Jack, the main character, walked into a restaurant to eat and the nurse that was taking care of his brother happened to be there going over some of her records. She motioned to Jack and he sat down at her table to discuss his brother’s situation.
Soon after, the sister of his Jacks girlfriend walked by the same restaurant and saw them sitting together. So, she came into the restaurant and Jack told introduced her to the nurse and said they were looking at his brother’s records. The sister, who did not particularly like Jack, decided to try and make an issue out of it. She made it sound like they were having a romantic dinner together, insinuating that he was being unfaithful to his girlfriend. This accusation was totally unfounded and almost cost the relationship. Fortunately, they both saw the deception of the sister eventually and made amends.
We must be careful to never jump to conclusions when we see something that seems out of place especially when it involves an elder. If we have questions about something, we should go to them first and tell them we have a concern. I have been an elder in many churches and I have always appreciated when someone comes to me with a concern about my behavior. It shows me that they care, and this is a way of showing honor. You allow me to explain what was going on instead of formulating your own conclusions. If I don’t give a sufficient answer and you have serious questions, then I would suggest you go to the pastor. Not your friend, or your neighbor, or even your spouse. An elder always deserves the benefit of the doubt and going to the pastor should keep the matter confidential. If you have a good pastor, he will know what to do in the situation.
I have been in a position of complete wrong against my pastor, my family and my employer. I was and elder in the church and the worship leader, as close to an assistant pastor as our little church would need. I did some very stupid things and wound up losing my job of 20 years over them. I told my wife and we met with our pastor. He was deeply hurt because I had been through this before with him and he had come to a place of trusting me once again. He did not go so far as to publicly reprove me, but he did insist that I should go for help or never come into his church again. It was a turning point in my life and I am grateful he took those drastic measures.
My wife decided to go back to a church we had gone to before and I went on an 8-month sabbatical to get my life straightened out. When I returned, we stayed in the church where my wife was going and are still there today, 11 years later. That pastor and I have reconciled and I have ministered in his church a few times. Our God is so awesome that he restores broken relationships. I am grateful that my pastor did what was necessary back then because if he had not, I might be still travelling down a destructive road.
Paul ends by telling Timothy how important it is to stay with the instructions we he has given. As a young man, I am sure Timothy had plenty of people who would offer him advice on certain matters. Paul wanted to make sure the first priority was to say with the truths he had shared with Timothy in this letter. Still today it is important to stick with the teachings found in this letter. Let us not wander from the truths contained here!