1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. But refuse to enrol younger widows for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so doing incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households, and give the enemy no occasion to revile us. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are real widows' (5:9-16).

Verses 3-8 of this chapter have spoken in general terms of widows, their way of life, and the duty of their families and of the church to support them. These verses following seem to refer to a special group of widows who have a particular place in the life of the church. They are 'enrolled' as widows, and they have both special duties and special privileges.

First, they are widows who are supported by the church. They must be at least sixty years of age (verse 9), and have no other means of support. Therefore the church must provide for them. Secondly, they have a responsibility towards the church. They must be women who have previously given themselves in Christian service. As the New English Bible puts it, before a widow is 'enrolled' the church must ask 'whether she has had the care of children, or given hospitality, or washed the feet of God's people, or supported them in distress' - in short, whether she has taken every opportunity of doing good (verse 10). She must also have been faithful in her married life (verse 9). Such widows, when they were 'enrolled', seem to have made a 'pledge' or promise (verse 12), to continue to serve in every way possible, and to go on 'in supplications and prayers night and day' (verse 5). Two more things are said about widows in this passage.

1. Young widows are not to be enrolled in this way. They would have to make a 'pledge' that later they might feel unable to keep, especially if they wanted to marry again. The apostle is not against remarriage. Rather he recommends it for younger widows. They can thus give themselves to a normal home life again, and carry out the great task given to Christian mothers of bringing up their children to love and serve the Lord. If they were simply to do the older women's work, visiting from house to house, they might face temptations too strong for them. With all the time and energy on their hands, they would be tempted to meddle in other people's business, and to talk unwisely and unhelpfully about others. The apostle does not mean that every young woman chosen for this work would act in this way; rather he means that the risk would be a great one, and so this particular work is better reserved for older women.

2. Verse 16 repeats what has been said in verses 4 and 8, but the application seems especially for these younger widows. They themselves may have elderly relatives to whom they can give themselves in care and support. They must do so, and then these will not be a further burden on the church.


Lord, in Thy mercy look on all who are lonely and in need, and especially on widows. Help us to do all that is in our power to help those known to us. While we are young, keep us from every temptation to misuse our time and strength; when we are old, may we still be faithful to Thee, and prayerful to the end of our days, when Thou wilt take us to be with Thee, through the grace of Christ our Saviour. AMEN.

Notes. 1. 'The wife of one husband' in verse 9 must be understood in the same way as 'the husband of one wife' in 3: 2 (see notes on that verse). Verse 14 makes it clear that the apostle is not speaking against a woman marrying again after the death of her first husband.

2. The 'first pledge' of which verse 12 speaks seems to commit the widow to a life of service for Christ in the fellowship of the church; remarriage is not wrong in itself, but it would make impossible the carrying out of such a pledge. The widow would thus grow 'wanton against Christ' and violate the first pledge made. 'The younger widows would not wish to be tied to church duties if further opportunity came for marriage' (Guthrie).

Further Study. 1. Consider New Testament passages that reveal the Lord's concern for widows and for their support (e.g. Mark 12:42-44; Luke 7:11-15; 18:1-5; Acts 4:34,35; 6:1-6; 9:36-39; James 1: 27) .

2. Study the emphasis placed on hospitality in the New Testament, in 3:2; Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9.