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Scripture Union

Text: Prepare

Let's imagine saying these words to our Christian brothers and sisters at church: 'So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone him, each other's needs to prefer, for it is Christ we're serving' (Graham Kendrick © 1983 Thankyou Music).
Bible passage: Bible passage: 1 Timothy 5:1-16

1 Timothy 5

Advice About Widows, Elders and Slaves
1 Don't tell an older man off. Make an appeal to him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as if they were your brothers. 2 Treat older women as if they were your mothers. Treat younger women as if they were your sisters. Be completely pure in the way you treat them.
3 Take care of the widows who really need help. 4 But suppose a widow has children or grandchildren. They should first learn to put their faith into practice. They should care for their own family. In that way they will pay back their parents and grandparents. That pleases God.
5 The widow who really needs help and is left all alone puts her hope in God. Night and day she keeps on praying. Night and day she asks God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she is still living.
7 Give those directions to the people also. Then no one can be blamed. 8 Everyone should provide for his own relatives. Most of all, everyone should take care of his own family. If he doesn't, he has left the faith. He is worse than someone who doesn't believe.
9 No widow should be put on the list of widows unless she is more than 60 years old. She must also have been faithful to her husband. 10 She must be well known for the good things she does. That includes bringing up children. It includes inviting guests into her home. It includes washing the feet of God's people. It includes helping those who are in trouble. A widow should spend her time doing all kinds of good things.
11 Don't put younger widows on that kind of list. They might want pleasure more than they want Christ. Then they would want to get married again. 12 If they do that, they will be judged. They have broken their first promise.
13 Besides, they get into the habit of having nothing to do. They go around from house to house. They waste time. They talk about others. They bother people. They say things they shouldn't say.
14 So here is the advice I give to younger widows. Get married. Have children. Take care of your own homes. Don't give the enemy the chance to tell lies about you. 15 In fact, some have already turned away to follow Satan.
16 Suppose a woman is a believer and has widows in her family. She should help them. She shouldn't let the church pay the expenses. Then the church can help the widows who really need it.
Text: Explore the Bible
Respect for all Paul tells Timothy to focus on individuals, treating them differently according to their age and sex, and with a good understanding of their real needs. Respect for all is key (vs 3,17; 6:1); leaders must look down on no one. 'It's as if you're all members of the same family,' says Paul, 'as in fact you are.' For instance, to different people Timothy is to be like a son and a brother (v 1). Stick together When trouble comes, the family needs to stick together.

That's also Paul's advice to Timothy about widows and their immediate families. They should help themselves and one another as much as they can, before looking to the church to bail them out (vs 4,5,8,10,16). And when opportunities come to serve God in new ways, the women Paul has in mind (vs 9-16) - just like everyone else in the church - should be respected and a good role model in the way they live. They also need to be totally committed to the role, and not majorly distracted for one reason or another (vs 11,13).
Text: Respond

Ask God to raise up strong leaders and role models in your church, even among those others might look down on.
Terry Clutterham
Text: Deeper Bible study
One of the key qualities of church leadership is the ability to relate appropriately to different groups within a congregation. As a young man, Timothy must relate appropriately to his seniors and his peers. While treating each one equally he should also treat each properly, respecting their stage in life and gender. How many problems would have been avoided if all church leaders had been so circumspect? In particular, Paul highlights the plight of those widows who are destitute. He differentiates them from widows who have resources they can call on and also from those who have family who should provide support. When resources are tight they should be channelled effectively. Paul is concerned to respond generously, but not disempower those who have a Christian duty towards their family. He expands on this to make the general principle that we have a God-given duty to care for our family. That has particular relevance and challenge today, with people living longer and older people becoming increasingly frail physically and suffering from memory loss. How we best support them without abandoning them is becoming an increasingly complicated issue and their health, well-being and safety must be matched with a desire not to abdicate personal responsibility or remove treasured independence. As well being alone and destitute, Paul adds the further qualification that such widows should in turn be supporting the church by their prayers. They are to be honoured by receiving an honorarium. Some for whom marriage is no longer an option, who are over 60, could be enlisted into an order of widows who support younger women and families and do good in church and community. Younger widows, who may be open to remarriage and having a family, need to beware of the dangers of idling and gossiping. Colin Sinclair
Text: Background: Caring for the widows
It's hard for many of us to imagine a world with no welfare support, pension or state benefit. But that's the world in which the Bible was set.

God cares deeply about the underprivileged, the dispossessed and the oppressed. All too often widows fell into these categories. With no way of supporting themselves they were at the mercy of others. The Bible tells us that:

● They are not to be taken advantage of (Exodus 22:22).

● God cares about them and their plight and will vindicate them (Deuteronomy 10:18).

● The community is to provide for them (Deuteronomy 24:19-21; 26:12).

● The family has a responsibility to care for them (Deuteronomy 25:5). This may look odd to us but is about provision of care and comfort as well as preserving the family line.

● They are to be treated justly (Deuteronomy 27:19).

● Israel is condemned for its failure to care for them (Isaiah 1:17).

● Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of those who are great at praying but exploit widows in their vulnerability (Mark 12:40). He also shows that a poor widow has more spiritual depth and generosity than they have (Mark 12:42,43).

● James regards the heart of true faith as caring for widows (James 1:27).

In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, Paul encourages the church to provide for widows but in a responsible way. The first responsibility lies with the family (v 8).

Widows seem to have had a practical role in the life of the church and are seen as people of prayer (see too Luke 2:36,37). The reputation of the church in the eyes of outsiders means that any hint of scandal must be avoided (vs 11-15).

John Grayston
Text: Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year. Today's readings are:

Job 22,23

Psalm 85

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