Reading for Thursday, Aug. 23: 1 Tim. 5
Although Timothy is not to let any one despise him for his youth (4:12), he is still commanded to approach his elders in a spirit of respect and love. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity,” (5:1-2). Although Paul will argue against many of the prevailing social norms that separate Jews and Gentiles, he also sees great value in the mutually respectful tenor of familial relationships, which forms the basis of his teaching in these verses.
Paul turns his attention to a particularly important subject in body life: carrying for those in need, specifically the widows in the church. Paul reinforces the familial obligation as the primary means of provision for widows (perhaps drawing on Jesus’ teaching against those who would declare the right of “corban”, material gifts devoted to God). But Paul also spells out criteria for helping those who are truly in need. The takeaway for us is to seek generosity coupled with discernment. It is interesting that Paul does not recommend an indiscriminate pattern of generosity; instead, stewardship requires the set of criteria Paul offers. The goal is not to withhold blessings from those in need; far from it. The goal is to provide for those who are truly in need, while encouraging individual family units to help in ways that are appropriate.