Nurturing Noble Ministry While Pursuing Primary Ministry.

In ministry and in life, there are many necessary and noble things but fewer primary things. If your child is in the emergency room with a broken arm, you understand when a person with a heart attack is treated first. In the church, there are major ministries and lesser ministries. All need to be addressed. 1 Timothy 5 outlines in detail how the church is to care for widows faithfully and comprehensively in order to please God. The purpose of this ministry, in the context of the whole book, is to protect the church and further the Gospel.


Ministries and programs do not exist to grow the church. The church is built by Christ working new birth through His Word. He tells us the non-negotiables of ministry in His church. God gives simple instructions for the care of different groups, so we can clearly know that we are putting a smile on God's face.

Ministry Reverence (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

Paul instructs Timothy to revere saints in a chronological way. He uses familial terms to show the natural reverence in a home where everyone's hearts are right. We should treat our church family with the same respect that we treat our own family. (This also means we should treat our families with respect!) We show fellow believers divine reverence because they are saints, made in God's image, born again, equal in Jesus Christ, and titled by God Himself. We respect what God has done in a person.

Timothy was to show the example in a church context where a group unfaithful people were having a negative influence on the faithful whole.

Ministry Reminder (1 Timothy 5:3-8)

God gives a biblical theology for the care of widows throughout the Bible. Widows are the objects of God's special care and attention in the Old and New Testaments. These are just some references:

  • Psalm 68:3, Ezekiel 22:23, Deuteronomy 10:18 – God's heart for widows.
  • Deuteronomy 14:29, 24:19-21, 26:12-13 – God provided for widows through the Old Testament tithe.
  • Isaiah 1:17-18, Jeremiah 7:6, 22:3-4 – God blesses those who help and honor widows.
  • Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:17, Zechariah 7:10 – God rebukes and punishes those who hurt widows.
  • Mark 12:42, Luke 7:11-17, 18:3-5 – Jesus showed care for widows.
  • Acts 6:1-7 – Widows were not forgotten by the early church.
  • James 1:27 – Caring for widows pleases God and is necessary for local church.

The first source of provision for a widow was to be her own children. Parents invest significant time and cost in raising their children, and God's will is for them to pay their parents back if a necessary time comes.

Ministry Resume (1 Timothy 5:9-10)

In the time and culture when 1 Timothy was written, widows had no provision without living family members. Social Security and retirement benefits make the situation less common today. However, when a widow has no other family members, or she has unsaved children that are unwilling to provide for her, the church must meet her needs. This "list" of widows was not just to meet physical needs but also ensure older widows stayed actively involved in the ministry. In some cases, this meant were employed by the church. Either they were paid by the church, or the church learned and met their needs. In both situations, discipleship is necessary. Discipled women at every age will grow in the godly characteristics needed to minister, and a discipling relationship must exist for the church to know how to meet a widow's needs.

To be put on the list, a widow must be over 60 and sexually pure. She must not live for "wanton pleasure" or be worldly and materialistic. The church's ministry is to focus on those who are devout. She must be known for her walk with God, personal prayer life, and public devotion to God. She has a reputation for being faithful, motherly, hospitable, humble, merciful, and devoted.

Ministry Resolve (1 Timothy 5:11-16)

A widow also made a pledge of service to the church when she was put on the list. A younger widow who had that obligation but also desired to marry would be more prone to immoral temptation. Thus they should not be put on the list to begin with. Timothy also found that young, idle widows were falling prey to false teaching. Paul recognized that younger widows were naturally distracted and instructed them to remarry and form a new home. A younger widow may even have a widowed mother who depended on her. Though she was needy herself, the younger widow's obligation in this situation was also to marry. She would then have provision so her widowed mother would not become a burden to the church.

Caring for widows is noble and necessary. It must never become the central ministry of a church, distracting believers from their primary focus. This would not honor the heart of widowed saints! Their lives are prioritized spiritually. The church too must stay true to its evangelistic obligation. As we care for widows in a prioritized fashion, we are promised blessing in the primary propagation of the Gospel.

Application Points

  • Are you obeying 1 Timothy 5:4 in your family life? If you do not have a widowed mother now, you will potentially need to care for her in the future. Are you maintaining a relationship with your mother now so there will be no barrier to your help? If your relationship is not right, do everything you can to reconcile.
  • Our Spirit-filled light in our community should never become secondary to the necessary ministries inside our own walls. Make sure your service in the church is not at the expense of evangelism.
  • Are you treating saints with reverence? Do you honor the members of your own home? You may have a brother or sister who is struggling in their walk or being tempted by false doctrine. As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, "Be patient with all."
  • In this passage, those who received help from the church were also expected to serve in it. Does your service show a divine reciprocity?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – We also treat those with respect who are struggling with false doctrine.
  • Luke 2:36-38 – The devout example of Anna.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Christian Hearts, In Love United"

Christian hearts, in love united,
Seek alone in Jesus rest;
Has He not your love excited?
Then let love inspire each breast;
Members on our head depending,
Lights reflecting Him, our sun,
Brethren His commands attending,
We in Him, our Lord, are one.

Come, then, come, O flock of Jesus,
Covenant with Him anew;
Unto Him who conquered for us,
Pledge we love and service true;
And should our love’s union holy
Firmly linked no more remain,
Wait ye at His footstool lowly,
Till He draw it close again.

Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
"Love each other," we comply,
Aiming with unfeigned affection
Thy love to exemplify;
Let our mutual love be glowing,
Thus will all men plainly see,
That we, as on one stem growing,
Living branches are in Thee.

O that such may be our union,
As Thine with the Father is,
And not one of our communion
E’er forsake the path of bliss;
May our light forth with brightness,
From Thy light reflected, shine;
Thus the world will bear us witness,
That we, Lord, are truly Thine.

Quotes to Ponder

When the Scripture gives common sense, seek no other sense.

— Charles Spurgeon