How to Treat Your Sheep (Timothy 12)


(READ 1 Timothy 5:1-16)  I heard a pastor say that pastoring a church would be easy if it weren’t for the people.  That is very true.  The hardest part of pastoring is dealing with the pride, self-centeredness, stubbornness, rebellion and sin of people.  I’m sure God would say that about us as well!  I love studying the Bible and teaching/preaching, but ministering to difficult people can be a real challenge.  People can be critical, rude, demanding and insensitive.   Timothy, too, was having difficulty with rebellious, troublesome people as well so Paul gave him advice on how to treat people.

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity”  (1 Timothy 5:1-2).  Paul’s advice is simple: treat everyone like family.  Be respectful and kind to those who are older than you, even when correcting sin in their lives.  Treat them as you would your own parents.  Those who are younger we should also treat with gentleness and respect, as we would a brother or sister whom we love.

Paul then focuses on a situation Timothy was facing in Ephesus.  The church helped widows with food and clothing, but just which widows qualified for support?  When free help and food are provided, some will claim they are in need when they really aren’t.  Paul said there are certain qualifications a widow must meet to be financially supported (5:3-10).   They must have no family to support them (5:4), because:  “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (5:8).  This is the first condition and is repeated three times it is so important (5:4, 8, 16).  These strong words show how necessary it is for families to take care of each other and not assume the church will do it for them.  Yet often times relatives expect the church to provide so they don’t have to.  Timothy had to teach his people that they were responsibility for their family and so do we.

There are other requirements to be met for widows to be supported by the church.  They must have a close relationship to God (5:5), not live a self-centered life (5:6) and be unable to earn a living because they are over 60 (5:9a).  They had to be a loyal mate when married (5:9b), have a good reputation as a godly person (5:10), have been a good mother to their children (5:10) and hospitable to strangers (5:10).  Having helped other Christians as well as anyone in need (5:10) and being devoted to holiness (5:10) are also necessary.  Limits have to be set on who a church helps financially or everyone will come for free money and there won’t be enough for those really deserve it and need it.  We must be good stewards with the resources God gives us today as well.  Sometimes it can be hard to turn away someone who is demanding or who may complain to others about us, but we must be careful in how we use God’s money.

Having talked about helping older widows who have a need, Paul then talks about what to do about younger widows (5:11-15).  Should they also be financially supported?  Paul says they should not be given money because if they don’t work, they may use all their free time unwisely (5:13).  They may put men and sexual desires before God (5:11).  They may get involved with ungodly people, misuse their time, become nosey gossips and waste their life (5:13).

If those who can support themselves have to do so they will take responsibility for their own lives, settle down with a family of their own and grow to spiritual maturity (5:14).

To summarize, Paul says we are to treat others with respect, as a close family member whom we love.  The Golden Rule applies here: treat others as you want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12).  We are to sacrificially help those who are in real need.  But we aren’t to support those who can help themselves or who have family who should help them.  If there is government help available that must be used instead of church money as well.  Not doing so just wastes God’s resources and doesn’t really help them.  It enables others to not do their God-given duty.

We are responsible to treat people as Jesus treated them, even when it isn’t easy.  Ask Him for patience, love, wisdom, compassion and kindness as you interact with others, especially people it is hard to get along with.

Are you following these guidelines in your family and church?  Is there anything you, like Timothy, need to change in how you treat people or support those in need?


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