Please turn to 1 Timothy 5:1-16. Throughout this letter Paul has been giving wise counsel to the young minister, Timothy, who was pastoring a local congregation in Ephesus. In providing godly counsel to Timothy, Paul also sets forth what are God’s priorities for a healthy local church. Specifically, he addresses three important aspects of Christian ministry. First, in verses 1-2, Paul concentrates on the issue of the way that Timothy is to relate to different kinds of people in his congregation. Then, in verses 3-8, Paul tells Timothy that the church is to have an ongoing concern to care for those in the local congregation who are in need. Finally, in verses 9-16, Paul discusses the qualifications of those who serve in assisting the officers of the church in the ministry of the church. 

I. Relate to Different Church Members in Different Ways. 

In verses 1-2, Paul says, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Paul is saying, “Timothy, do not treat everyone the same way in the congregation.” In other words, he is telling Timothy, “We are a family in the local church, and we are to relate to one another as a family. And Timothy, as a young man, even when you see an older man straying, you are not to speak to him in a harsh and demeaning way. You are to speak to him as if he were your own father, because God has brought you into His family, and because that family is expressed in the life of the local church, you are to express in your dealings with the different members of the congregation your respect for their different stations in the family of God. Those older men are to be treated as fathers in the Lord. Those younger men are to be treated as brothers in the Lord.” 

And notice Paul does not just stop there. It is not just that Timothy is to treat older men in a specific manner and younger men in another manner. He is to deal with men and women differently. Paul goes on to say, “You appeal to older women as mothers.” A loving son is to correct his own mother with humility, a searching of heart, a wrestling at the throne of grace, and spiritual wisdom. And Timothy is to approach the older women of the congregation in this way. In addition, Timothy is to approach younger women as sisters. They too are to be admonished. Their spiritual best interests are to be looked out for, but they are to be treated as sisters. Timothy is also to be careful in his relationships with females, especially younger females, that he would deal with them in the utmost integrity and sexual purity. God made individuals. And those individuals constitute the church, and the different stations that they hold in life are to be respected as we minister in the church. And so Paul is telling Timothy, “Don’t treat everyone the same in the church. Recognize their stations.” 

II. Show Christ’s Love Tangibly to Those in Need. 

In verses 3-8, Paul speaks to Timothy about the role of family and church in the care of needy Christians in the congregation. He explicitly speaks about widows in this passage, but what he says could be applied to those who are in need who are not widows. Paul’s point to Timothy is that the church is to show Christ’s love tangibly to those in need, but not to pre-empt the families of these members in helping them in times of need. In verse 3, Paul says, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” Paul is emphasizing to Timothy that the church has a definite responsibility to care for these truly needy widows, and by extension to all those who are truly needy in its midst. The word “honor” here means simply more than to treat with high regard, it means to give great consideration, and when necessary even material support to those who are widows. Paul also emphasizes that those who are supported by the church should be “widows indeed.” For Paul, a “widow indeed” is a woman who truly, having been widowed, has no one else to help her in life. She is also a person who has truly manifested her commitment to Jesus Christ in the life of the congregation. 

Now this is important, because Paul is perfectly aware of the phenomenon of children who refuse to take responsibility for caring for their parents. As such, Paul has some very strong words for those who refuse to do so. Specifically, in verse 8, Paul says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” Paul takes very seriously the family responsibility in the care of elderly parents and of those who are in the situation of being widowed. Thus, Paul is saying here, “Do not obstruct the family responsibility in ministering to those in need in the church because ultimately the family first bears the responsibility for those in need.” As we enlarge our hearts in our congregations to care for those in need, we must take care that our heart is enlarged wisely, and that we show care to those who need it most without pre-empting the mechanisms that God has implanted in the very fabric of society to provide for those who are in need. 

III. Give Back to the Church’s Ministry.

In verses 9-16, Paul makes it clear that those who are supported by the church are to give back to the church’s ministry. At the same time, he makes it clear that those who minister alongside the elders and the deacons of the church are to be held to the highest standards of Christian living. Specifically, in verses 9-10, Paul says that those who are going to serve on the widows list must not simply be widows in need, but they must be those who have practiced hospitality, who reared children and rendered service to traveling ministers, assisted the afflicted, and been devoted to every kind of good work. Notice also that Paul tells Timothy to care about a widow’s station in life. If she is a younger widow, let her have the opportunity to re-marry and to serve in the normal courses of life. Paul’s words of wisdom in this passage give us principles for how we ought to serve today. And as we conduct ourselves in these ways, we manifest the tangible love of Christ for His people to a watching world. May God manifest the love of Jesus Christ in us actually and really, in ways that others can sense not only in the hearts of those who are around them, but can see in their deeds as they faithfully minister to those in need.