The Expository Files


The Evangelist & People


1 Tim. 5:1-8



Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.  She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Tim. 5:1-8, ESV


This was from God, through Paul to Timothy, about his demeanor and relationship with people. That’s the main subject of this passage.


Timothy – see text previous to chapter five – had responsibilities to be sound in his teaching; to exhort; to warn sinners; to be an example to believers – all of that. Now here, Timothy has responsibilities in his relation with people. And He must attend to those with the greatest care.


Here is reality! You can amass great knowledge and have great skill and discipline in teaching and preaching, but fail in your relationship with people. Just as Timothy has a responsibility to know and preach the truth and be a good example. He has these responsibilities in his reaction to and relationship with people.


Five classes of people are specifically named here: older men; younger men; older women; young women; and widows.


In most local churches all of these will be present. Now let’s look back into the text, to see what Paul writes to Timothy about each relationship:


Toward older men – encourage them as you would a father.

Toward younger men – treat them as brothers.

Toward older women – treat them as mothers.

Toward younger women – treat them as sisters.


Please observe: The family relationship is the model! Every imperative phrase in verses 1 & 2, calls upon Timothy to deal with Christians as family.  With that kind of respect and patience and warmth, the gospel preacher can build good relationships that will enhance his ability to communicate truth.


This is about Timothy’s demeanor toward people, Christians he is working with. People are not anonymous or ageless or genderless. People are to be treated in keeping with their age and gender – based on the family model.


So, if a preacher is treating older men unlike he would his father . .

Or, if he is treating older women unlike he would his own mother . . .

If he is treating younger men unlike he would his brother . . .

Or, the young sisters unlike he would his own sister . . .


… His demeanor needs serious adjustment. It is extremely difficult to teach people and help them be Christians – if your relationship with them is cold, mechanical, or impersonal.


In regard to the young women, for example, a preacher must be extremely cautious that the acquaintance is pure. Extremely cautious! We’ve all known men who have not taken this seriously – and have done great damage to the Lord’s cause, several marriages and families.


The preacher’s teaching and sermons must be sound in the faith – but so must he nurture good, pure and cordial relationships with his brothers and sisters in Christ.


“Honor widows who are truly widows.”


There were women then and today, who have been married, but are now not married – but they are not really widows – and we don’t call them widows. It was likewise in that time of Paul and Timothy and there is external evidence, that in that society – sorting out widows and their status, was often difficult.


And it was also true – in the time of Paul and Timothy – that generally, widows were an oppressed class. There was no life insurance, social security, retirement pensions or Medicare in the Roman Empire. Christians often took responsibility about those women who were truly widows, women who had lost their husbands to death – and were striving to live right. Timothy needed to honor those who were truly widows. {The form of that honor is revealed in the verses that follow.}


A man can have a high level of knowledge; great speaking ability and really be sharp in his academic skills – but just not get along with people; just not have the kind of demeanor Paul speaks of here. This is designed to remind Timothy of that dimension of his conduct – his demeanor toward people, as specified in terms of age and gender and status. Preachers – you do not address audiences, you connect the Word with real people who have individual lives.


Concerning Widows – More Clarity


In the ESV – there is a three word phrase in verse 5 that offers clarity about widows who are truly in that classification; it says: “Left all alone.” If they have family to provide the care they need – “children or grandchildren,” what ought to be is – family cares for family. That is pleasing in the sight of God. But the woman who is “left all alone,” and who is godly – not self-indulgent – is deserving of honor (as specified further in the text).


Regarding the care of widows that is assumed by family – an important principle emerges in this text – and again, I’m using the ESV, and looking at that phrase: “…to make some return to their parents,” adding – “this is pleasing in the sight of God.” In the NIV, Verse 4: “…repaying their parents and grandparents.”


“For this is pleasing to God.”


When the Bible says something like this, with such clarity and directness – “For this is pleasing to God,” we must give good attention to it – and examine ourselves by it. God expects children and grandchildren to respond to the needs of their aged parents and grandparents. It is certainly customary in many societies, and in some cases, an economic necessity.


But this is telling Timothy and telling us - - The obligation to care for your aged parents and grandparents is mandated by God. Therefore – when done to the best of our ability – this is pleasing to God.


It will be good, young people, to plan for that. But even if you can’t financially plan for it. Your heart must be set to do it, when the time comes – to the best of your ability. Don’t rush out to ask others to do this; or demand the church do it – The Bible teaches – the family has first responsibility; this is pleasing to God.


And I’ll tell you this – from my experience – while it is challenging to take care of your aged parents – it is not, in any way, an imposition or a regretted burden: it is a delight, to be able to provide a place for your parents – and care for them and make them comfortable in their final days. It is a privilege. Paul doesn’t want women to be supported and encouraged in sinful lifestyles – thus, this additional clarity: “If she is self-indulgent,” or spiritually dead, the lifestyle cannot be supported. But Timothy is to command that this care of one generation for another – is pleasing in the sight of God.


Verse 8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” If there was any doubt before – there is no doubt now – that God expects family to take care of family. And, if there is negligence is this – The negligent ones are “worse than an unbeliever.” Very strong language, but this is connected to what we’ve been talking about – family relationships; family taking care of family; reminiscent of Ex. 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”


Regarding widows with legitimate needs, first responsibility is held by the children and grandchildren. If the family turns away from this duty, the indictment is:  “Worse than an unbeliever.”




(1)     If you are ever involved in searching for a preacher to do local work – take well into account, more than just his public speaking ability. Generally and historically – a church will ask a man to visit; they will put him in the pulpit …. see how they think he did, then make a decision. A man needs good public presentation abilities; good knowledge, etc. But, is he “an example to the believers,” and does he treat people as family – like Paul says here. The work of an evangelist entails more than just one’s public speaking ability.


(2)     Burdens can be kept from the church – when family members step up and take care of their widows. A man says, for instance, “I can’t take care of my mother. I’ve got a truck payment and a boat payment and football tickets. Let the church do it. They’ve got money in the bank.” He’s worse than an infidel. You don’t need a boat, and you may not need all that much truck. You need to do what is pleasing to God – and take care of your mother. Let the church do its’ work. You do your work toward your parents (see v.16).


(3) Self-indulgent life styles should not be supported, by family or church! Even if a woman is a widow – if she is living a sinful, self-indulgent life style – verse 6 says, “dead even while she lives,” we cannot finance that! The family – or in the absence of family – the church cannot support life styles that are complete contrary to  what God has said should be the life of a Christian.


Preachers and their family members; churches and their members; widows and their families need good acquaintance with 1 Timothy 5.



 By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 21.3; March 2014