“As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”
This is an awful lot to take in. Reading it, you could almost imagine that Paul has something against young widows. Of course, it’s not their fault they’re widows, and I’m sure he didn’t really have anything against them. That’s one of the ways words read can be misunderstood.
Paul’s basically telling Timothy to just not bother with young widows. And why? Because our stupid humanity comes back to haunt us every time. The widows never promised the church that they wouldn’t remarry after their husbands died, and the church has no reason to employ people that are likely to be no use to it ~ after all, if a widow remarries, her focus will be on her family, not the church. And they will be judged for breaking their first “I do.” I’ve never been married, but I’m pretty sure “for better and for worse” and “in sickness and in health” and “for richer or poorer” actually means something. I’m pretty sure that’s why they’re mentioned at every wedding. Fleshly desires carry us away from Christ.
Just in case that isn’t enough reason to leave young widows off the list, Paul points out that ~ because of their fleshly desires, I’ll bet ~ young people tend to want to work less and play more. Idleness isn’t just idleness. It leads to gossiping, “working hard” at pointless or harmful things, and stirring up dissension among neighbors. These are NOT qualities that should be rewarded with care from the church! Gossiping opens up plenty of opportunities for the Christian name to be slandered. A woman of God should care for her own house and not neglect it by spending too much time at other people’s houses.
So, Paul says, let them marry. In fact, encourage them to, because having a family to take care of will keep them from gossiping, idling, and causing problems. Look, though ~ poor widows were taken care of back then, and should be now as well. Sometimes we reason with ourselves that “things were a lot different way back then,” but I think that’s just an excuse we make so we don’t have to do things the hard way. I’m pretty sure poor people need as much help now as they did in Paul’s lifetime. They’re still poor, after all.
The church needs to be careful who they spend their money on. They haven’t got very much, after all. Misplaced charity is a hindrance to true charity. Money shouldn’t be thrown away on people who don’t really need it! (SO MUCH debate on wealth inequality could happen right now, and having studied it for an entire term in college, I might actually have something to add to it. But let’s avoid that.) Rich people should be ashamed to burden the church with relatives who aren’t as financially fortunate as they are. But, just like it was a man’s job to work, it was a woman’s job to care for her relatives in need.
Naturally, Paul didn’t expect nonbelievers to do such a thing. They were living under the rule that a man could throw his parents out on the street if he didn’t agree with their beliefs, because that was the rule that the government had given them. But God gives us a much better way to live that we can hardly expect nonbelievers to want to follow, even if they knew about it. Why would they? What’s in it for them?