Timothy had been sent to the church at Ephesus to confront some serious problems there. He was sent by Paul, the founder of the church, who wrote this letter to his young protégé to instruct and encourage him in his assignment. In this chapter Paul deals with some practical matters of church administration and ministry guidelines regarding two groups in the church: widows and pastors.
Being a widow in our society today is a sad and difficult situation, but in Timothy’s day a “true widow” (v.3) was in an awful mess. Without a system of welfare, Social Security, or insurance policies, and without any family to care for them, these women were often left destitute, unable to support themselves. That should not be so for widows in the church. Paul instructed Timothy to honor them and to lead the church to become their surrogate family. Timothy was to organize them into a group that would receive support from the church family and in turn provide the church with prayer support and other ministries (v.5).
Paul advised that Christian families should be as self-supporting as they were able (v.8). Children and grandchildren were to care for the widows in their families so that the church would not become unnecessarily burdened with supporting them. The younger widows in the church (under 60, v.9) were instructed to remarry and start new families (v.14). They were not to be included on the list for support. Some of the younger widows who had been supported by the church previously abused the system, becoming lazy and nosy. They did not hold up their end of the agreement — instead of supporting the church with their prayer or other ministry, they were tearing down the church with gossip (v.13).
The elders of the church (the pastors of the church) were also to be honored and supported financially. Preaching and teaching the Word of God is a privilege for pastors, but it is also “labor” (v.17), and Paul instructed that pastors should be compensated for it. Pastors were to be selected carefully (v.22), with ample time given to observe the character of candidates for ordination (or lack thereof, v.24). Pastors were to be protected from petty accusations (v.19), but they were also to be held accountable for provable sins and faults (v.20-21).
The church is a family, and families care for one another through good times and bad times. We love and support and honor each other. And we cooperate together to do good works that bring the lost to Christ and bring honor and glory to Jesus (v.25).