1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older woman like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. Honour widows who are real widows. If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parentage for this is acceptable in the sight of God. She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; whereas she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command this, so that they may be without reproach. If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever' (5:1- 8)

These verses show Timothy what his attitude should be towards different groups of people within the Christian fellowship. Family relationships are a guide for relationships between Christians, since they are members together in Christ's family.

a. Those older than himself

In his position of leadership Timothy will have to deal with both men and women older than himself; sometimes these folk may go astray from the way of Christ. Timothy must not 'rebuke' them, speaking harshly to them, forgetting that they are much older than he is. Rather he is to appeal to them, as he would to his own father or mother. Christian duty will not allow him to see them going astray without saying anything to prevent them; but Christian courtesy indicates the way he should speak.

b. Those of his own age

The apostle knew the dangers before a young man in an important position. With men of his own age he might be tempted to emphasize his authority: but he would not win others to his Lord or strengthen them in the Faith in that way; he should deal with them rather as brothers. Then Timothy, like every young man trying to give spiritual help to those of the opposite sex, must be on his guard. Such a relationship should be as brother to sister, above reproach. He should not give the slightest reason for suspicion by his behaviour. Paul has called Timothy (in 4:12) to be 'an example... in purity'.

c. Widows

Like the Old Testament, the New Testament says a good deal about widows. There are three points to notice in these verses 1. Widows who are 'real widows', having no means of support, are to be honoured. Their need must be recognized and they must receive the help that they need. The church in its earliest days gave this help (Acts 4: 34,35; 6:1-6) and it should do so still.

2. Christian men and women have a responsibility to support their own elderly parents and relatives, a responsibility they should not try to avoid. There is something wrong if the church has to help those who should have the help of their own sons and daughters. The apostle expresses this in the strongest way and describes the Christian who sins in this way as 'worse than an unbeliever'; Our faith and our religious duty should be shown first in our own homes, and it should be shown there in practical ways (verse 4). It pleases God when we honour and support parents and elderly relatives: see the example of Joseph in Genesis 45:9-11 We are then doing just a little to repay the great debt we owe them. Even those who are not Christians often show great care and consideration for old people.

3. Lastly there is a word for the widows themselves. In their need they may receive help from their own families and from the wider Christian family: yet their trust should be above all in God, and they should continue in a life of prayer. They may no longer be able to serve God in active ways, but they can serve Him 'in supplications and prayers night and day' till the very end of life. Luke 2: 36-38 gives a good example for old people to follow, verse 6 adds a warning; it is possible for even an elderly person to think more of pleasure and enjoyment than of God. God intends us, young or old, to find joy and happiness in life, but not to seek pleasure first. If we do, we miss the beat in life. We may have what the world calls life, but life apart from the ways of God is death (verse 6 and see Ephesians 2:1; 4:17, 18; Revelation 3:1).


Lord God, may we and all whom we love and for whom we pray know the true life which comes from trusting and obeying Thee. Give us grace to show Thy goodness and truth, Thy wisdom, tenderness and compassion, Thy purity in all our relationships with others, to the honour of Jesus Christ our Saviour. AMEN

Further Study. 1. Consider other passages of' Scripture which indicate what our attitude should be to our parents and elders: see Exodus 20:12, Leviticus 19:32; Matthew 15:4-6; Ephesians 6:1-3.

2. What does the Old Testament teach about God's concern for widows, and what should be the concern of His people for them? See Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10: 17,18; 14:29; 24:17-21; 26:12,13; Psalm 68:5; 146:9; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:5-7.