Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Timothy & Countering The Culture (part 24)

Having placed new parameters around honor and shame, especially concerning widows and the response to widows, Paul then goes on to present his thoughts concerning the same in a way that is not entirely dissimilar to what he did with overseers and deacons.  In a sense then, it is almost as if Paul is creating “widows” as a position in the church, which he knows will result in the appropriate amount of honor coming their way.  Again, this stands in opposition to the culture, which was generally dismissive of widows and which left widows to what was going to be a harsh and miserable existence.  So just as Paul has offered directives concerning the role and the requirements pertaining to overseers and deacons, he now does the same for widows. 

To that end, Paul writes “No widow should be put on the list unless she is at least sixty years old” (1 Timothy 5:9a), which would be quite old in a day and age in which life expectancy was much, much lower.  This restriction is extended as Paul adds, “was the wife of one husband, and has a reputation for good works” (5:10a), which is the language of public benefaction, extends beyond service in the church, and does not carry any connotation whatsoever in relation to performance-based righteousness or the attainment of salvation, “as one who has raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of saints, helped those in distress---as one who has exhibited all kinds of good works” (5:10b).  This should give each reader pause, causing the believer to continue efforts towards that which is here defined as good works (as it matches up well with the words and actions of Jesus), especially as Paul makes the point of using “good works” twice in relation to these things.

In contrast, Paul adds the instruction to “not accept younger widows on the list,” presumably those concerned with pleasures, “because their passions may lead them away from Christ and they will desire to marry, and so incur judgment for breaking their former pledge” (5:11).  Clearly, with these harsh words, Paul has specific individuals in mind, much like was probably the case with the restrictions placed around the qualifications for overseers and deacons.  Talk of the widows that have been the wife of only one husband, combined with this talk of desire to marry and judgment for the breaking of pledges, dovetails with Paul’s insistence that overseers and deacons be the husband of only one wife, and should probably not be read in isolation from each other. 

Taken together, all of this lends itself to the idea that there were certain individuals in the church that were attempting to elevate themselves or to create a hierarchy within the church, and Paul would not have this in the church of the Christ.  With such things in mind, Paul can be heard continuing with his condemnatory words, not speaking in generalities in the least, and writing “besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazy, and they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things they should not” (5:13).  Apparently, Paul is attempting to shame somebody specifically, as this is a far cry from “one who has raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of saints, helped those in distress---as one who has exhibited all kinds of good works.”     

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