I grew up in Denver, Colorado, about 1,000 miles from extended family on my mother’s side and 1,000 miles in the other direction from my father’s family. For the first 18 years of my life I visited my only living set of grandparents maybe once a year. Watching my own children grow up within a 20 minute drive of two sets of grandparents, I now understand what I was missing all that time.
Grandparents have the potential of being some of the most impacting mentors in a young person’s life. Even though input from grandparents is not always possible, one incredible aspect about being a part of God’s family is that He always provides. For me, the provision of grandparental influence came in the form of Clarence and Genevieve De Vries.
Fourth grade Sunday school teachers to me and (six years later) my sister, this older couple took a keen interest not only in us two girls but my parents as well. I remember my dad listing fishing buddy, Bible study partner Clarence as one of his best friends and confidants. My mom spent much time on the phone, at church or at the De Vries’ home talking with Genevieve.
Dinners at their tiny, turn-of-the-century home near the heart of downtown were organized and delicious affairs served family style – everyone filing in according to seating so once you were in, there was no getting out of that miniscule dining room until the meal was over. I remember the little bedroom off the kitchen where Genevieve took care of an elderly relative with gentleness and honor. I also remember Genevieve’s commitment to pray for my beautiful, gifted sister from early childhood; a pledge that never waned, even when our family moved away near the end of my college years and communication became mostly by letter.
Watching, listening to, and learning from this lovely couple filled a void in my life. From them I learned the value of opening my home even when resources are few. Because of them I’m committed to do what it takes to care for my almost 80-year-old daddy with dignity and sacrifice when the time comes. From them I learned the importance of prayer. The visible quiet love they had in their long marriage encourages me in my own. And their devotion to pouring out their lives into others for God’s glory makes me long to do the same.
Even though Paul doesn’t directly mention grandparents in his first letter to Timothy, related topics of widows and older fellow believers make up the first part of this week’s lesson. Paul also encourages Timothy in some broader church business. Though it appears random administrative information on the surface, when looked at in light of the previous chapter’s encouragement regarding Timothy’s youth (1 Timothy 4:12), it seems Paul is providing a balance in chapter 5. Timothy needs to stay strong as a leader despite his youth, but because of his youth he must lead with humility and regard for his elders – who in the world of mentoring are invaluable.
I. Read 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Leviticus 19:32, 20:9; Deuteronomy 27:16; Job 12:12; Psalm 71:18; Proverbs 4:1-4, 16:31, 20:29.
Timothy was instructed by Paul not to sharply rebuke sinning older men but instead to confront with deference and honor. When Timothy appeals to them as he would a father it means to “come alongside” – helping or strengthening them in their walk.1
- List the relationships we are to have with one another in the church according to verses 1 and 2 of 1 Timothy 5.
- What do the above Old Testament verses have to say about the elderly?
- How do you view growing old in both yourself and in others?
II. Read Genesis 48.
This is the account of Jacob (or Israel) at the end of his life. He and his family are now living in Egypt after seeking relief from a horrible drought and famine. There Jacob was reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his other sons, years before. God – being the amazing provider that He is – put Joseph in just the right place to honor Him and create in Egypt an oasis for the world, including his long-lost family. Now, as Jacob puts his affairs in order, Joseph comes to present his own sons to their grandfather for a blessing.
As you thoughtfully read through this account, see all the ways Jacob gives of himself in this role as patriarch. There is a beautiful opportunity grandparents have to mentor and bless the little ones (or big ones) God has placed in their lives.
- What are some things Jacob does or says specifically to the sons of Joseph in this chapter?
- In what ways does Joseph honor his father?
- Do you have very young ones in your life – grandchildren, adopted-grandchildren, church children, neighborhood kids? How could you use this idea of intentional blessing in their lives?
- If you have younger children of your own, how could you better put them in positions to learn from and be blessed by grandparents or older church members?
DAYS 2 and 3
I. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-16; Psalm 146:9; Proverbs 15:25; Mark 12:38-40; Acts 6:1-7.
Paul mentors Timothy heavily in the area of inner-church relations; one of the greatest treasures of the church is the elderly. Ideally, they can enrich with wisdom, love and patience after years of experience in various life situations, both good and difficult.
And within this group of experienced saints, one of the greatest resources is widows. In the text of 1 Timothy 5, Paul focuses on the definition of widowhood so that those women who are truly widows can be provided for from the church congregation.
- How are they to be treated?
- Who is the first line of provision for widows? Why is this important? How does Paul characterize those who refuse to do their duty in verse 8?
- How are widows defined in verses 5, 9, and 10?
- How are they to work within the church?
- Last week we studied the calling of deacons and their work within the church. From the Acts 6 passage in today’s reading what sparked the need for the deacon ministry?
- Does the culture in which you currently live honor and revere widows, and care for them well? How could Christian congregations better care for and utilize their wisdom?
II. Re-read 1 Timothy 5:3-16.
There was a temptation within the fledgling church for any-aged woman who had lost a husband to be included in the widow list. One commentator viewed the 1 Timothy 5 description as a type of “order” of widows due to the apparent pledge not to marry (verse 12), the fact that their reputed focus was to be the Lord’s work (verse 5 and 10), and that their names were put on a list (verse 9), perhaps so that they would not be overlooked in the distribution of food as we saw in Acts 6. But the list had its restrictions.
- What were the reasons Paul had for not wanting younger widows on the list?
- What were some of the alternative suggestions for their care?
- Verse 16 gives the final reason for only allowing those who fit the description of widow indeed to be on the list. What is that reason?
III. Read I Kings 17 (with Luke 4:24-26); Luke 2:36-38, 7:11-17; John 19:25-27.
Anna, the Widow of Nain, and Jesus’ own mother, Mary, are three examples of widows in Jesus’ life. The Widow of Zarephath story from I Kings is an Old Testament picture of God’s provision through a widow whose story Jesus later used as an example. All of these passages give us a glimpse both of the widows’ characters and how we are to respond to them.
- What are some characteristics of these women found in I Timothy 5?
- What did Jesus and Elijah do that shows not only compassion for widows but how we can meet their needs as a church?
- Why did God send Elijah to the widow of Zarephath? What did Jesus say was the significance?
- As with all our doings, God is a God of grace and mercy. The widow of Zarephath had a son so she may not have qualified for the list in 1 Timothy. Yet God used her mightily in a desperate situation for one of his prophets and provided for her at the same time. How did God bring glory to himself through this woman?
DAYS 4 and 5
I. Read 1 Timothy 5:17-25; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15, 25:4; Proverbs 3:27; Jeremiah 22:13; Matthew 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 9:3-14 (skim to the end of the chapter).
In the second half of 1 Timothy 5 Paul is encouraging and showing esteem for pastors, which manifests itself in two ways: taking care of their physical and financial needs so they can preach and teach effectively, and not receiving accusations pitted against them without witnesses.
The first point – that of providing financially for our pastors – may be a matter of debate until Christ returns. Having time to study, putting together teaching points, evangelizing, and spending time with people is important. Often, due to the small size of a church, a pastor must have a job to supplement his income to support his family. Sometimes, a pastor will go in as a missionary so that young churches in poorer areas don’t have to come up with a salary right away.
But no matter a church’s size, financial standing or location, according to these passages there should be some sacrifices made physically, time-wise, and monetarily by the congregation in order to fulfill Paul’s mandate. The term “double honor” in verse 17 actually means giving both respect and remuneration.2
Paul had a tent making job that he continued throughout much of his ministry. When he was in prison and house arrest there was no opportunity to earn a wage, of course, so he depended on assistance from other believers, and many stepped up to the plate. But a second job is never mentioned regarding Timothy or the other young pastors to whom Paul wrote. In reality, when Paul advocated paying an elder, overseer or pastor, he was going to bat for others and not for himself.
- What imagery does Paul and the Old Testament references use to illustrate the idea of a workman being worthy of his due? (There are at least 6 mentioned in the 1 Corinthians passage alone.)
- What are some of the implied warnings of not honoring hard work?
- How should this affect our local church or church member involvement?
- In what ways can you support your pastors financially and beyond?
II. Read Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; Hebrews 10:28.
Another way we can esteem our pastors – the second half of that “double honor” – is by thoroughly examining a bad report about them. Throughout Scripture there is an emphasis for having two or three witnesses in a matter so there won’t be hasty judgments, wrong punishments, or ruined reputations without cause. Timothy must be fair, just and humble as he now applies 1 Timothy 5:1-2 to the circumstances in verse 19 and following.
- How are elders who continue to sin to be dealt with?
- What are some of the words Paul chooses to show how to maintain the principles of confronting sin among elders?
- In verse 21, who does Paul indicate is watching the church’s response to his advice on this matter?
- The phrase “lay hands upon” (some versions use “appoint” or even “ordain”) in verse 22 most likely refers to hastily choosing a pastor when “time must season a man and his ministry.”3 What specific warning does Paul give Timothy for this matter?
- What reasons can you think of that would be grounds for not ordaining a young pastor too quickly?
- What assurance does Proverbs 10:9 offer regarding the need for godly confrontation?
III. Re-read 1 Timothy 5:23.
Tucked in the middle of this passage is Paul’s advice to Timothy about adding wine to his diet in order to help some sort of stomach trouble (vs. 23). It could be that working in such conditions as his was causing an ulcer…I know it would for me! No matter how you feel about wine, Paul is prescribing it here for Timothy. We are never told why Timothy didn’t drink wine in the first place. But we know that a little bit will make his intestinal tract happier.
I began this lesson with a story about a set of “adopted” grandparents from my growing up years. Whether married, widowed, in church leadership or simply sitting smiling in a pew, older people are a treasure to be celebrated, especially regarding mentoring and being mentored. If you are in the grandparent age bracket, be encouraged that your wisdom is needed in your local church body. Seek out a younger woman to whom you might impart your gifts or simply share your story. If you are a woman who needs a grandparent influence, prayerfully ask. Mentoring never stops in either direction – we all need to be mentored and we all need to be prepared to be a mentor when God gives opportunity.
1. MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, Updated Edition. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville. 2006. Page 1837. Notes on 1 Timothy 5:1.
2. Ryrie, Charles C. The Ryrie Study Bible NASB, Expanded Edition. Moody Press. Chicago. 1995. Page 1923. Notes on 1 Timothy 5;17.
3. Guzik, David. “Study Guide for 1 Timothy 5.” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. 7 Jul, 2006. Web. 1 Feb, 2014. www.blueletterbible.org.
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