May 20: From Concept to Caution to Cause
1 Chronicles 8:1–40; 1 Timothy 5:10–17; Psalm 78:53–72
Some things in the Bible are downright surprising, including several passages in Paul’s letters. Sometimes his words are so personal or they’re addressed to such a specific person our group, that it’s hard to understand why that particular passage is there. But God uses people to do His work, and whatever they show or teach us sets a precedent—like how to deal with difficult people, or how to best help the poor.
Some sections of Paul’s letters are rarely read aloud in church; we simply can’t figure out how to apply them. What application can you draw from a long list of people, or from the very specific details of how to evaluate a widow in need in your community (1 Tim 5)? What if there are no widows in your community? Do you just move on?
First Timothy 5:10–17 sets a good precedent for us as Christians, and it can serve as a standard for applying other passages. We don’t know precisely why Paul told Timothy not to help widows “less than sixty years of age,” but we do know that he was setting criteria for evaluating and helping the poor (1 Tim 5:9). Other than children and previously freed slaves, widows were the most impoverished members of society in biblical times.
Paul provides further criteria that would prevent a handout-based culture, and would also require a widow to have truly been transformed by Jesus’ teachings (1 Tim 5:10). Helping the poor isn’t enough—they need spiritual help, too. Paul also cautions against those who abuse the system (1 Tim 5:11–13), acknowledging that it can actually cause more harm than good when the church helps them.
As the Church, we want to help. But there have been times when we have done more harm than good—both locally and globally, particularly in the developing world—by failing to understanding the power struggles at play in any given situation. This should not stop us from helping; instead, it should encourage us to be both fiscally wise and culturally educated before providing funds. Understanding what people are really going through and how to truly help them is nearly as important as giving.
Who is your community trying to help? How can you better educate yourself on their real needs and how to meet them?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Benjamin also begat Bela his eldest son, Ashbel the second, and Aharah the third. Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. And the sons of Bela were Addar, and Gera, and Abihud, And Abishua, and Naaman, and Ahoah, And Gera, and Shephuphan, and Huram. And these are the sons of Ehud: these were the chief fathers of those that inhabited Geba: and they were carried away captives: and he begat Uzza, and Ahihud. And Shaharaim begat certain in the country of Moab, after he had sent away Hushim and Baara his wives. He begat, I say, of Hodesh his wife, Jobab and Zibia, and Mesha and Malcam, And Jeuz and Sachiah and Mirmah: these were his sons, and chief fathers. And of Hushim he begat Abitub and Elpaal. And the sons of Elpaal were Eber, and Misham and Shemed (which built Ono and Lod, and the villages thereof.) And Beriah and Shema (which were the chief fathers among the inhabitants of Aijalon: they drave away the inhabitants of Gath.) And Ahio, Shashak, and jeremoth, And Zebadiah, and Arad, and Eder, And Michael, and Ispah, and Joha, the sons of Beriah, And Zebadiah, and Meshullam, and Hizki, and Heber, And Ishmerai, and Jizliah, and Jobab, the sons of Elpaal, Jakim also, and Zichri, and Zabdi, And Elienai, and Zillethai, and Eliel, And Adaiah, and Beraiah, and Shimrath the sons of Shimei, And Ishpan, and Eber, and Eliel, And Abdon, and Zichri, and Hanan, And Hananiah, and Elam, and Antothijah, And Jaareshiah, and Elijah, and Ziehri, the sons of Jeroham. These were the chief fathers according to their generations, even princes, which dwelt in Jerusalem. And at Gibeon dwelt the father of Gibeon, and the name of his wife was Maacah. And his eldest son was Abdon, then Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Nadab, And Gedor, and Ahio, and Zecher, And Mikloth begat Shimeah: these also dwelt with their bretrhen in Jerusalem, even by their brethren. And Ner begat Kish, and Kish begat Saul, and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchishua, and Abinadab, and Esh-Baal. And the son of Jonathan was Merib-Baal, and Merib-Baal begat Micah. And the sons of Micah were Pithon, and Melech, and Tarea, and Ahaz, And Ahaz begat Jehoaddah, and Jehoaddah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri, and Zimri begat Moza, And Moza begat Binea, whose son was Raphah, and his son Eleasah, and his son Azel. And Azel had six sons, whose names are these: Azrikam, Bocheru, and Ishmael, and Sheariah, and Obadiah, and Hanan: all these were the sons of Azel. And the sons of Eshek his brother were Ulam his eldest son, Jeush the second, and Eliphelet the third. And the sons of Ulam were valiant men of war which shot with the bow, and had many sons and nephews, an hundred and fifty: all these were of the sons of Benjamin. 1 Chronicles 8:1–40
- And well reported of for good works: if she have nourished her children, if she have lodged the strangers, if she have washed the Saints’ feet, if she have ministered unto them which were in adversity, if she were continually given unto every good work. But refuse the younger widows: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry. Having damnation, because they have broken the first faith. And likewise also being idle they learn to go about from house to house: yea they are not only idle, but also prattlers and busybodies, speaking things which are not comely. I will therefore that the younger woman marry, and bear children, and govern the house, and give none occasion to the adversary to speak evil. For certain are already turned back after Satan. If any faithful man or faithful woman have widows, let them minister unto them, and let not the Church be charged, that there may be sufficient for them that are widows indeed. The Elders that rule well, let them be had in double honor, specially they which labor in the word and doctrine. 1 Timothy 5:10–17
- Yea, he carried them out safely, and they feared not, and the Sea covered their enemies. And he brought them unto the borders of his Sanctuary: even to this Mountain which his right hand purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, and caused them to fall to the lot of his inheritance, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tabernacles. Yet they tempted, and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies, But turned back, and dealt falsely like their fathers: they turned like a deceitful bow. And they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to wrath with their graven images. God heard this and was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel, So that he forsook the habitation of Shiloh, even the Tabernacle where he dwelt among men, And delivered his power into captivity, and his beauty into the enemy’s hand. And he gave up his power into captivity, and his beauty into the enemy’s hand. And he gave up his people to the sword, and was angry with his inheritance. The fire devoured their chosen men and their maids were not praised. Their Priests fell by the sword, and their widows lamented not. But the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and as a strong man that after his wine crieth out, And smote his enemies in the hinder parts, and put them to perpetual shame. Yet he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: But chose the tribe of Judah, and mount Zion which he loved. And he built his Sanctuary as an high palace, like the earth, which he established forever. He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds. Even from behind the ewes with young, brought he him to feed his people in Jacob, and his inheritance in Israel. So he fed them according to the simplicity of his heart, and guided them by the discretion of his hands. Psalm 78:53–72