Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:7-8 (NIV).
Paul continues his advice to Timothy concerning widows; this actually continues through verse 16. Yet here is his most plainspoken advice on how said advice also applies to how we interact with others (in addition to those widowed).
I grew up in a family of four. My parents were good, middle-class parents, themselves from modest backgrounds (his in the family of a Philadelphia civil servant with four children, hers in a small, Minnesota farm-town family of five). My sister and I were the only kids, and while we didn’t live extravagantly, we did live well. We always had a house, even if it was hopelessly cluttered (my parents loved collectibles). We always had food on the table, the bills paid (though sometimes barely so), reliable transportation, and church. We took vacations to see the sights, traveling more of the country than most of my peers. And we were supported in school; my parents cared deeply about education. Most importantly, my sister and I can say that we were loved. Sometimes it was chilly love and sometimes we struggled just to hold together as a family, but we always knew we were loved.
In fact, that could be put on my parents’ gravestone up in Oklahoma: Mom and Dad did the best they could. They did what they could with the talents and resources God gave them. They provided for us everything they could, even when it seemed out of step. I look around at so many broken families today and I sometimes forget to say “thank you” again to God that mine never ended up that way. It wasn’t easy; there were times Mom and Dad could have cashed it in, but they didn’t. They believed in each other; they believed in us; they believed in God (at least on Sundays, or when the music was particularly good. Mom and Dad both loved good choral and church music).
My childhood wasn’t glamorous or thrilling but it was good. I always knew what “home” felt like, and I knew how to build a home when I built a family of my own. I feel sorry for those who don’t, those whose parents didn’t provide, or didn’t care to. I hope they know that there’s still a chance for them. God counsels all of us that, even when our earthly families fail us, He never does. Today’s verse reminds us that we need to care for each other, especially in our families. Aside from loving God, it’s our primary mission on Earth.
For further reading: 2 Peter 2:1, Jude 4, 1 Timothy 5:9.
My Lord, thank You for my parents and my childhood family. Thank You for inspiring them to do the best they could and to know You.