Renewing Our Values: “Redefining Standards in Relationships” – 1 Timothy 5:1-16

Adult and Daughter (9-10) Holding HandsBeyond showing a child how to relate to the God that created them, the next most significant lesson a parent has is to teach their child how to navigate life with proper behavior and consideration toward others. That interpersonal task is not disconnected from walking with God – it is related to the knowing and following Him. A child that learns to reflect God’s love to others will grasp much more quickly that happiness begins where selfishness ends. Meaning is found in walking according to the Creator’s purpose. Our richest delight can be found by following God’s deepest desires for His Creation as expressed in His Word.

When a child doesn’t learn to hold God’s love tightly, they don’t understand their own intrinsic value – because the value of a human being is found in the breath of the Creator within. When a child doesn’t learn that same value extends to all the others in his village, the child doesn’t learn boundaries and respect. Without an intimate knowledge of respect and value, behavior increasingly violates others and becomes caustic…On a societal level, as America shifts from our once assumed foundational morality to a different ethical environment – behavior is noticeably changing.

As the Creator’s authority was stripped from classroom, courtrooms overflowed… it was inevitable.

As Biblically molded structures are removed from the public eye, Biblically acceptable public behaviors devolve. So that I don’t speak in abstract terms, let me offer the picture from a “real life” story:

You are really tense from long hours at work, so you decide to go out with your spouse for the evening, onto the “red hot” town that is Sebring, Florida. As you get out on US 27, someone in the lane in front of you rolls down their automobile window and tosses a full bag of fast food trash from their car onto the median. You watch, helplessly, as the leftover soda cup falls out onto the highway, and the bag breaks apart. You deliberately try not to notice, because you are trying to have a good time. In a few minutes, you arrive at one of our little restaurants, and begin to look over the menu. It has been a day, so you pick out your favorites, and then start a conversation with your date, trying to talk about something other than your work and tension related issues of life. A minute into the conversation, you both are consciously struggling to hear each other because a man across the aisle is yelling into his cell phone about his work troubles, and trying to get someone to give him a break on a late fee. You suffer through the meal, listening to details of his life, payment history and many troubles – when you don’t know him and don’t intend to. Dinner ends, and though the evening has been “bumpy”, you want more from your date experience – because you both need to relax. The two of you decide to make your way to a movie for a diversion, but five minutes into the movie the group of children in front of you have decided they don’t want to watch the feature, and you shouldn’t want to either. They get up and down, make noise all the way through the movie, and distract everyone around them. You cannot find anyone claiming to be a parent. You miss critical scenes with them standing up and blocking you, and by now both of your blood pressure numbers cancel any plan for stress relief. You move elsewhere in the theatre, but they just get louder. Your complaints to the management obviously fall on deaf ears, so the two of you leave never seeing the end of the movie. Wound up tighter than a clock spring, you both decide to stop off for a cup of hot tea before heading home. You walk into the restaurant and sit as far as you can from anyone else. “Good!” you say, as you see only a handful of people in the whole place. As you sit down with your hot cup and begin another attempt at quiet conversation, a roar overtakes the room as a very loud woman two booths down shares a funny story with her small group of friends. You try to smile and think, “At least they are having fun!” Then you both notice it. Apparently, the poor young lady suffered some lapse in education, because she appeared to only be able to express happy thoughts in sentences thoroughly mixed with vulgarity – she has far too many words that contain four letters to keep in her head. Embarrassed at the crude speech, you both decide to go home, and you admit the time to relax somehow just didn’t do the trick.

Do you recognize “stressers” you have been facing this week? Public behavior is becoming a problem as the moral base of the country frays and recedes.

We all readily admit this is a problem, and there is little we can do to address it beyond reciting the “Serenity Prayer” and letting go what we don’t control. Now… if that is truly the case, why did I bring it up? Our text for study today reminds us that long ago, Paul recognized that behavior was a matter of training, and church behavior was a matter of church teaching. He spelled out relational behaviors for a younger Pastor, because he knew we would never be able to learn from the world the standard for the church.

Key Principles: Relationships are often defined and always guarded and preserved by proper behavior (right actions). For what is RIGHT, we should look to God’s definition of GOOD BEHAVIOR.

I have an app on my iPad called “Seven Little Words”. Today, we are going to take the complexity of relationships within the context of the Christian community and organize the teaching from God about this important subject around some little words that preserve the essence of the instruction to each of the people mentioned. For the sake of this lesson, let’s key in on TWO small but powerful relational WORDS – “Respect” and “Value”.

First, people must be RESPECTED:

Let’s start where the text starts with relationships…Paul opened in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 with two verses about four kinds of people that are grouped by their sex and age, and Paul related them to family relationships to help illustrate a single truth: relationships between believers must be based on proper respect boundaries. He wrote:

1 Timothy 5:1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but [rather] appeal to [him] as a father, [to] the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, [and] the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Respect in the context of the older men looks like asking them, in an appeal for help, not presumptive or angry correction (5:1). Address them the way you would address your father as you try to honor him.

Paul told Tim to be careful with older men (presbuteros) and not sharply rebuke them (lit. epiplasso: mold by striking with hard mallet, used only here and referring to “mallet speech”). Rather call him alongside to help (parakaleo) as you would your father! The idea is that you will gain help by humbly asking for it, not by demanding it. Good fathers don’t mind helping their children when the children don’t present an attitude of entitlement or demand, but they won’t be barked at and called to “jump through hoops”. Respect looked like Tim lovingly and humbly recognizing their value as a gift from God to the church as men that possessed skills essential to the community. Respect begins with recognition of intrinsic value.

Respect for younger men looks like comradery and brotherhood that can be drawn in when treated with the respect you wish to get (5:1b).

Younger men are to be treated as brothers (adelphos). The verb parakaleo (used as “appeal” to the older man earlier in the sentence) is grammatically linked and carries the verb to young men as well. In other words, Tim needed to “appeal” to younger men as he would to a brother he grew up with, and deeply loved. Brothers are part of that attachment we have to our past and our heritage. They are part of our blood, and (if yours were like mine) sometimes they drew blood just to prove it! Seriously, they are a part of us, and their success is familial success. They carry (along with us) the family name, and they are a direct extension of who we are.

Respect for an older women in the church looks like one who is treated with the deep respect one should give to their mother (5:2a).

So central was this respect, that it was part of the core standards of the civil code of Law, often referred to as the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). It was repeated in constitutional law in Deuteronomy. Striking a parent was a capital crime. The Scriptures were filled with strong words about this, and Timothy knew them well:

• Leviticus 20:9 ESV: For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.
• Exodus 21:15 ESV: “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
• Proverbs 20:20 ESV: If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

These words represent violation, but given a few minutes we could amass a great repository of stories of care for mothers by sons – so the point need not be expounded.

Respect for younger women looks like treating them with PURITY as one would toward a sister (hagnia: purity, 5:2b).

Our culture has (sadly) objectivized women, and in doing so it has made them less than they were created to be. God didn’t create women as objects – but as His treasured, beautiful and wondrous human creation. She was made second – so some would be inclined to point out that usually a builder does a BETTER JOB the second time around. (Of course, since the Creator is perfect, that truth of human creation may not apply!). Seriously, men (and in this context in particular to a Pastor) need to be careful in their relationships with younger women.

Men, relationships with women begin with discipline of mind. God made you to desire them, and made their form beautiful in your eyes. I have it on good authority of men much older than I, that attraction does not leave us all our days. Because that is true, we must change our thinking about those dear younger women God has entrusted to our care and fellowship. We must see them differently – and that is about YOU and not THEM. Let me illustrate:

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean’, she said. ‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap’ Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: ‘Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?’ The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’ And so it is with life. What we see when watching others, depends on the purity of the window through which we look. (from sermon central illustrations).

We need the “spirit of windex” to descend upon our thinking. We need to see these dear ones not in FORM, but as substantive, rich, promising parts of the community of faith!

While we are dealing with the subject of purity, I want to offer something that may be helpful for some of our younger believers to bear in mind. Tim White wrote this:

Where at one time, having sexual relations outside marriage was considered liberating, current studies show that it damages one’s ability to trust, affecting future relationship, one’s respect for self, affecting every decision and diminishing the value of right decisions, and one’s respect for health. Liberating? At what cost? Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney released a study at Harvard University that shows that exposure to immorality and participation in sexual acts during childhood years actually changes the brain, interrupting the normal production and usage of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain for the remainder of the life. These chemicals, when released properly, create the “monogamy syndrome”, in that moment bonding the person to another. … According to the study, … “But that bonding, which acts like adhesive tape or Velcro, is weakened when people tear away at its power by breaking off with a sexual partner and moving on from one to another to another. So when it does finally come time to bond permanently with a spouse, the ability to bond is damaged. The brain actually gets molded to not accept that deep emotional level that’s so important for marriage. When they do marry, they’re more likely to have a divorce than people who were virgins when they got married…”

Purity is an issue on many levels – but it always, always ALWAYS begins in the heart and mind Deal with it there before it grows.

The bottom line is that people need to be respected – or the church will fall apart.

Respect in the public square sounds like civil discourse that adds substance, but is careful about attacking people. Respect in the church sounds like “Yes, sir” and “No, sir”. It can be seen when we hold doors for one another, when we get a chair for the one who is struggling to walk, when we control our children so that they don’t (in their youthful enthusiasm) create a hazard for an elderly person by running about unsupervised. Respect in relationships looks like deliberate focus on careful relationships, never creating a situation that could lead another to sin in thought or action. Thinking purely adds sanctity to this whole body. Defiled TVs lead to defiled churches – because a guttered mind won’t raise because the room is filled with hymns. We must be honest with ourselves, and careful with our minds.

Now stop for a second. With all that I just mentioned in mind… don’t forget that we don’t do ANY of what we do out of obligation – we do it out of LOVE. Biblical LOVE means that I see you as one that I can HELP, not as a plaything or toy. Biblical LOVE means that I get to show my King how I feel about Him by reflecting His character in my life and His Word in my value system. I AM TIRED OF OBLIGATED BELIEVERS- I want love-sick ones!

Second, people who are in painful and disadvantaged situations need to be VALUED. They are not a “problem” or a “ministry” – they are a valuable part of the family of God!

In the rest of our remaining study, I want to focus on the words of Paul about WIDOWS in the section between 1 Timothy 5:3-16. It is obviously a primer on who qualified for assistance and specific parameters of that help. At the same time, there is a larger theme that made it fit beautifully into the passage. In ancient society, a woman’s familial relationships defined her in even a more profound way than in modernity. Women deeply desired to have children – for it was their best opportunity to contribute economically to the family’s long term benefit. Many are the stories of women in the Bible that LONGED for a child – like Hannah, Sarah, Rebekkah, and Elizabeth – just to name a few. They “hard wired” their identity to their spouse and their family. I shouldn’t smile at this point, but it reminds me of a cute and pointed little story about a widow I read some time ago:

A dear woman had “Rest In Peace” put on her husband’s tombstone. A few days after his passing, she discovered that he left her out of his will. She had added to the tombstone inscription: “Till we meet again!” (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!)

In all seriousness, we cannot be glib with the fact that widows are women who suffered a seismic shock to their identity – and that is my real point. Today, we also could perhaps include a substantial number of women who have suffered the loss of their partner by divorce – who have also survived a shock of great import. In a very real way, the Biblical period “widow” was usually quite economically challenged, as well as grappling with facing life without her soul mate. There aren’t words I can use from a pulpit that would convey that deep sense of loss and pain. What I CAN do, what I am COMMANDED to do – is to recall the unique tenderness such a woman would require from both her Pastor and the congregation of fellow believers.

In short, people must BE VALUED.

If you look at this closely, you may be surprised at what Paul said. He offers us a very special nugget from an unlikely place – and it all starts with a person shattered by events beyond her control.

Many widows, if you take the time to listen, will admit they went through a time when they felt like a “fifth wheel”. Couples they and their spouse spent time with can turn into strained relationships, because she is ALONE, and that is awkward for some. In truth, there is little we can do about that but help her gain a sense of identity apart from her late husband. Paul told Timothy he was to honor her (timao: from to set the cost of; from temeos, to value or view as precious) widows (khayrah: stripped ones, reduced ones) 5:3. Here is exactly what Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are widows indeed

Immediately, Paul had to establish WHO qualified for specific aid as a widow, and it is not simply anyone who has lost a spouse to death… that made them widows, but eligibility for assistance was another matter.

Paul sought to make believers place their families in the first position in regards to their own care.

He wrote: 5:4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

There are perhaps two ways to understand what 5:4 actually addresses – but both lead to the same place in principle. If, in the grammar of the passage, the intended subject of the passage is the “children” or “cousins” (translated and updated by the proper word “grandchildren”) – then the issue is that children that can care for their widowed mother should be instructed to do so. That is certainly a true statement, but may NOT be the primary issue involved in the passage.

Look at the statement again. If the subject of the Greek sentence were supposed to be the “widow” – the issue of the text changes significantly. The issue was that in many Roman homes, parents sent their children to their parent’s home while the parents served in army duty, or did hard labor in a field, working outside the home for long hours. This allowed the younger family to have their children cared for by trusted “daycare” workers (that raised them years before) and yet establish stability without the extra issues created by raising children at home. In such cases, widows had to be instructed to send home their children’s children – thus allowing the family to take responsibility in a new way – similar to the teaching above in principle. The problem would have been that the women would feel GUILTY and not want to BURDEN the family. The had to be instructed to practice piety (eusebeo: act out properly and dutifully the right order from God) and to return value to (apodidomee: restore, repatriate or give back what is rightfully owned) to their families (5:4).

Don’t get lost in the verbiage. Paul wanted the woman without a family to help her to know that the church would be called up to “step up”. Those widowed believers without families needed to live out their faith and not waste their unique opportunity. Paul said:

1 Timothy 5 Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

That unique place of becoming a picture is what brings about in Paul’s writing the warning: A widow who lives with extravagance, rather than caring for others about her, has missed the point of God’s blessing in this life! (5:6). Rather than become an example of God’s blessing, and an opportunity for a church to show their love to God, if she behaves badly she will create “handles” on their lives that the enemy can use (note the word anepileptos in 5:7).

Timothy was to expect believers to provide for their own families before anyone else helps them (5:8). The church could and SHOULD HELP – but must first must make clear standards for that help – because that was part of the display of God’s lesson through their lives.

Go back to verse 5 and note the words: “left alone” (mono-o, used only here) fixes her hope on God’s constant provision for her and others around her, asking God to care for them tirelessly.

Here is the heart of the teaching: The woman with the need becomes a picture of God’s provision before the whole church, as God uses the church to help her live day by day.

She becomes God’s teaching tool to her family to learn to care for her needs before asking for others to do so. She becomes a unique and deliberate tool in God’s hands to call those in the church to caring and loving acts of service. God grant that He will always raise up among us some with deep compassion who ask if needs are met!

Here is the point of God’s desire to USE HER. Her NEED isn’t a PROBLEM, it is an OPPORTUNITY for the church to learn to BE THE CHURCH. It is a display to the church of the need to slow down and not allow those who hurt to be trampled by the world with no recourse.

The widow is not a problem, she is a gift of God for a congregation to MEASURE its trustworthiness, its true desire to LIVE OUT God’s Word, and not just study its theory. Let me see if a story will make the idea of a SACRED TRUST more clear:

An elderly man was desperately ill. Knowing the time for his departure was near, he called for his closest friends to come see him one last time. Attending him were his doctor, his pastor and his business manager. The old man said, “I know you can’t take it with you, but who knows for sure? What if the experts are mistaken? I want to account for all possibilities. So I’m giving you each an envelope containing $100,000. When I die, I want you each to slip the envelope in my jacket pocket at the funeral service. Then, if I do need money in the life to come, I’ll be ready. And I’m giving the envelopes to you because you are my most trusted friends.” Shortly thereafter, the man did die. Each of his three friends was seen slipping something into the deceased’s coat pocket as he walked up to the casket to pay his final respects. Following the service, while these friends were visiting with each other, the doctor, with a sheepish look on his face, said, “Guys, I have a confession to make. You know with the cost of medicine today, I don’t make that much money. The hospital is desperate for funds. We can’t even replace the CAT scan machine that’s broken down. So, I took $20,000 for the new CAT scan and put the rest in the coffin.” The minister cleared his throat and looked down at his shoes. He said, “I, too, have a confession to make. As you know, our church is seriously overburdened by the needs of the homeless. I couldn’t just see burying that money. So, in hopes of helping the homeless, I took $50,000 out of the envelope and put the rest in his pocket.” Looking sternly at the doctor and the minister, the businessman exclaimed, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I am astonished and deeply disappointed that you would treat a solemn trust so casually. He was our friend. I want you to know that I placed in his casket my personal check for the full $100,000.” (From Sins We Love, by Randy Rowland, p. 125-126).

People that understand a SACRED TRUST will see the widow as what she is – a special gift of God. Every needy person we meet is an opportunity for believers to show how much God has provided for them, and how much they trust His ability to provide for them in the FUTURE!

Keep reading about these precious “unlikely treasures” that God supplies to the church:

1 Timothy 5:9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, [having been] the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; [and] if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, [and] if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse [to put] younger widows [on the list], for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12 [thus] incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn [to be] idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper [to mention]. 14 Therefore, I want younger [widows] to get married, bear children, keep house, [and] give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has [dependent] widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

Paul clarified some guidelines:

• The woman must be sixty plus, and a one woman man (5:9; cp. Titus 1:6).

• She must have been consistent in her walk and have witnesses (marturia) of her work for God (5:10):

a. showing a pattern of care (hospitality)
b. showing a pattern of service (nipto: washing of feet)
c. showing a pattern of sacrifice (aiding in care of distressed ones: (thleebo: pressed down and crushed as in the case of grapes).
d. Showing a constant readiness to be on board to serve (“to be on the heels of”) the work that needs to be done.

• Young widows must be held off the permanent list, as they are not ready for this distinction (5:11-12). They are not wrong for their desires to remarry, but the list is to be solemn and permanent. It isn’t just short term assistance; it is a long term symbol!

• If added permanently to the list before the age, they are enabled to misplace priorities (5:13-15)

Paul ended by reminding believers in the congregation that they should individually care for those they can BEFORE enlisting the whole church’s support (5:16).

The point was that just as the men and women of the church are to be RESPECTED, so widows are to be moved from a “liability” and “ministry” to a place of TREASURED WORTH – because God set up a special place for the church to pour out physical assistance on them as a display of His hand working through the congregation.

Have you ever thought of widows as having a SYMBOLIC OFFICE that God established? They do. They, and others who have needs in their lives not created by their choices, but by an act of God, offer the church a unique opportunity to show LOVE for Jesus by showing LOVE for THEM!!

I need to close, but before I do, give me just a minute and let me tell you what happened to Ted Forbes back in 1984. “While walking down a street in Chicago…Ted found a wallet. Being an honest Christian man he wanted to return it to its owner. So he opened it to look for identification. The wallet contained just $3.00. No driver’s license…no Social Security card…no pictures…nothing to indicate who owned the billfold. Looking through the wallet a little more, Ted found and an old envelope. It was wrinkled and looked as if it had been carried there for years. The only part of the writing on the envelope that could be read was the return address. To find more information, Ted opened the envelope, and to his surprise, the letter was dated June 6, 1924. The letter had been written nearly 60 years before. It was a “Dear John” letter. It was written to a man named Michael, and it was from a woman named Hannah. She explained that though she loved him, and she would always love him, her parents had forbidden her to see him any more. Ted Forbes wanted to locate the owner of the lost wallet. He drove to the location listed on the return address. He parked the car and walked up to the door. A woman answered the door. Ted asked the lady if she knew a Michael or a Hannah. He was told that 30 years ago she had purchased the house from a family whose daughter was named Hannah. She said that Hannah had placed her mother in a nursing home just a few blocks down the street. Ted drove down to the nursing home. He explained the story to the Nursing Supervisor. She told Ted that the lady he was trying to find had died. However, she gave him a telephone number where he might locate Hannah. Calling that number he learned that Hannah was not living there anymore. The person answering the phone said Hannah was now in an apartment house for the elderly. Ted began to wonder why he was making such a big deal out of an old, lost wallet which contained only $3.00 and a crumpled up old letter. But he decided to keep looking until he ran into a dead end. He finally tracked down Hannah and went to visit her at the elderly apartment house. She had an apartment on the 3rd Floor. Ted knocked on the door. A gray-haired, alert, bright eyed lady with a warm smile on her face answered the door. Yes, it was Hannah Marshall. Ted told her about finding the wallet and, showing her the letter, asked if she knew someone named Michael. Hannah took the letter. Tears filled her eyes. She told Ted that the letter was the last contact she had with Michael. She said that she had never married because she never met anyone she loved as much as Michael. Then she asked Ted if, when he found Michael, he would tell him she still loved him and that she thought about him every day. Ted thanked her and left. As he was walking down the apartment house hallway, he was carrying the wallet in his hand. The janitor saw the wallet and stopped Ted in the hallway. “Let me see that wallet.” Ted handed it to him. “Why, that’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere. He’s always losing it.” Ted asked where he could find Mr. Goldstein. The janitor said he lived in Apartment 6 on the 8th Floor. So, Ted quickly made his way to the eighth floor. He found Apartment #6 and knocked on the door. Sure enough, an old man named Michael answered the door. Ted showed the wallet to the old man. He asked if it was his. Yes, it was. Ted admitted reading the letter to seek identification of the owner. Mr. Goldstein asked, “You read it?” Then he told Ted that his life nearly ended many years ago when he lost Hannah. He had never married and had never stopped loving her. Then Ted said, “Mr. Goldstein, I think I know where Hannah is.” The old man became very excited. Ted simply took him by the hand, led him to the elevator and down to the third floor to Hannah Marshall’s apartment door. When she opened the door, they looked at one another in disbelief. Michael Goldstein walked slowly to Hannah. He took her in his arms. And the 60-year separation evaporated in the warmth of their love. About three weeks after Michael and Hannah were reunited, Ted got a call asking him to be their best man. They were to be married after years of separation. It must have been some sight: a 79-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman acting like teenagers. A perfect ending to a tragic separation. They had every reason to celebrate.” (From a sermon by David Rigg, When a Lost Person Is Saved, 3/30/2011)

Relationships are often defined and always guarded and preserved by proper behavior (right actions). For what is RIGHT, we should look to God’s definition of GOOD BEHAVIOR.