Also available as MP3: Respect For Your Elders – 1 Timothy 5:1-7
Since Verses 1 and 2 mention older women, younger women, and younger men, we know Paul’s not talking about the office of “elder,” but about older men. “Rebuke” is what you give someone doing something wrong (Lev.19:17) or standing in the way of God’s will (Ps.106:9), which today means opposing Pauline truth. But if others are rebuked when they do this (Tit.1:13), why should older men get a free pass if they teach error or live in sin?
Well, to begin with, a young pastor like Timothy (cf. 4:12) shouldn’t rebuke an older man for doing something wrong because he might not be doing anything wrong (cf. Mt. 19:13,14), and he might not be teaching anything wrong. So a pastor should “intreat” an older man first, i.e., ask him earnestly (cf. Luke 15:28) about what he’s doing or teaching. But in the Bible, the word “intreat” is almost always used for God or some superior (cf. Pr.19:6). Older men should be treated as superiors by intreating them be-fore rebuking them. If a pastor still thinks he said or taught something wrong, then he must rebuke him (IITim.4:2).
And the same is true for elder women, younger women, and younger men. The verb “intreat” applies to all. All God’s people deserve to be treated as superiors. Younger men don’t like to be rebuked by men their own age (like Timothy) so they too should be intreated before they are rebuked. Young pastors generally don’t understand women yet so should intreat elder women first as well. The kind of sin younger women are likely to be involved in is the kind Timothy needs to ask about “with all purity.” A pastor doesn’t need to know details to point out what is wrong.
“Honour” (5:3) in this context means to honor financially (cf. Pr.3:9; Dan.11:38), as in our word “honorarium.” In those days if a woman’s husband died, with him died all means of her financial support. So Paul tells Timothy to help widows, as they did under the Law with a special tithe (Deut.14:28,29). At our church, when anyone has a financial need, I announce it and you respond. Some churches have a benevolent fund, but however you help the needy is okay. God doesn’t specify how to help, He just says help.
“Widows indeed” (v.3) are those with no alternate means of support, such as from family (v.4). “Piety” is the worship of God by doing your duty to Him, or to your parents, or to your country, etc. A son shouldn’t join the military to do his duty to God by doing his duty to his country if he leaves a widowed mom behind to fend for herself. And a Christian son shouldn’t do the same by becoming a missionary. Ephesus, where Timothy was pastoring, was a missionary-minded church (Acts 19:1,10). Paul is saying if any of those who took the word to Asia had widowed mothers, they should first learn to show piety at home.
How much of a problem was this? Well, there must have been a strong thinking in the world at that time that you don’t owe your parents anything if it was able to influence the fundamentalist Pharisees to forsake what Moses said about honoring parents (Mt.15:1-6).That influence was still around in Paul’s day, so Paul told Timothy to ignore it and to tell the saints to “requite” (pay back, ISam.25:21) their parents (5:4) by honoring them if they have financial needs.
Paul says it is “good and acceptable” to do this (5:4), which makes it part of your duty to God (Rom.12:1,2). Part of your reasonable service to God is to requite your parents. “Desolate” (5:5) in this context means to have no children who can support her (cf.Isa.49:21). If she’s desolate she must trust in God (5:5), who requites her trust through the saints, not through His prophets as in time past (IIKi.4:1-7).
Then it is the widow’s turn to do some requiting by praying for the saints who support her “night and day” (5:5), just as we requite the government who gives us tax breaks by praying for them (2:1,2 cf.Ezra 6:3-10), something else that is “good and acceptable” to God (ITim.2:3). She should then requite God for helping her through His saints by living a godly life and not living in pleasure (5:6). He’s thinking of the Genesis 18:12 kind of pleasure. If she does, she won’t lose her salvation, just die in the Romans 8:13 sense, the kind of death a Christian doesn’t need to be saved from, just to wake up from (Eph.5:14; ICor.15:34).