Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 18 January 2019

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.  As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.  So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.  1 Timothy 5:9-15 (NIV).

This was obviously quite a problem for the early church:  how to care for widows.  Life expectancy in first century Judea was little better than it had ever been.   A man or woman in decent health could reasonably expect to live into their late TWENTIES.   Yes, you read that right.   If you lived beyond that age, you had access to sanitation, decent food, shelter, and you were the clear exception.   In Rome, people reasonably lived into their thirties or forties (mainly because many Romans had those basic needs satisfied).  Imagine how people would have viewed you if you were old, like in your seventies or eighties.  In a patriarchal society like Judea (like all societies of that time actually) it would make sense that caring for widows of all ages would, then, have been of paramount concern.  Due to that short life expectancy, there would have been many.

Cue in on that last verse, though, because it matters for all of us today.   “Give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”   Satan is a coward who doesn’t attack us in our strong places.  That’s how he operated in Jesus’ time; it’s how he works now.  Satan slanders us, weakens us, angers us, uses our emotions against us.  Folks who lose loved ones are especially vulnerable to falling away from the faith.   The enemy attacks us in our weak spots at such opportune times, so it’s especially important that we support those who have suffered loss.

It’s our mission in life to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.   One way to do that is to care for each other when we’re in need, when we’re vulnerable.  People die around us every day.   Let’s each work today to do what we can to help our neighbors and loved ones when that happens.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 5:16.

Lord, show me someone today who I can help in Your good name.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 16 January 2019

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.  1 Timothy 5:4-5 (NIV).

In our world, even one slip-up can be devastating.   It only takes a single one-night-stand to get a disease.   It only takes one rejection to have your hopes and dreams dashed during a vulnerable time.  The world is a tough place and jumping out into it is even tougher.  Keep our eyes on God and not the world around us.  Is this blog-post going to be full of platitudes and bland aphorisms?  No; I don’t like those either beyond them being reminders of truths we need to hear.   Yet there are things in those platitudes that matter because people are in real need all around us.

Losing someone you love is the most devastating thing on earth.  We can deal with almost anything but when the person on whom we rely most is gone, our entire foundation is destroyed.  “I can’t imagine losing your spouse and not having faith.”   My mom said those words to me about a year after my Dad died.  Mom had faith and was still the most independent-minded person I’ve ever known.   And while I don’t think she spent night and day praying and asking God for help, in her own way and time she did those things.   She told me that she prayed and talked with God when she was alone until, one day, she had the thought “Grace, you can do this.”   That was after about six months in the fog of grief.   And, for her, that was the start of getting better, of knowing that God had given her all she needed to keep moving forward in life.   She did for another 16 years.

In Ephesians, Paul reminds us to honor our parents.   That can be extended to assume he’s telling us to honor both our parents and our other forbears and elders.  Then, in Romans, he reminds us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may know the will of God.  I’ve never been completely alone, even during the times when it felt that way.  And I have dived deep into living for pleasure and gotten out of it worse.  In all these cases, it’s because I didn’t extend honor, either to God or to anyone involved.   I strayed from working to let God renew my heart and mind, and I’m not even a widow.

Imagine how much worse off things could have been if I had just lost my spouse.   In that light, Paul’s exhortations are common-sense Godly advice.

For further reading: Ephesians 6:1-2, Romans 12:2, 1 Peter 3:5, 1 Timothy 5:6.

Lord, help me to give honor to my elders, to live for You in all I do today.