(2) Concerning Widows
Verses 3, 4. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family and to requite their parents: – This further illustrates the fact that the Apostle is here occupied with the moral duties in a church, which are essential to a good witness in this world. The enemy must not have just cause for costing an aspersion upon anything in the lives and general conditions of those who constitute an assembly.
The word ”honour,” though not usually carrying the idea of material support, is certainly so mutinies so used, and apparently has that meaning here. See verse 17 below, and cp. Matt. 15. 6 and the text there.
The phrase ”widows indeed” refers to those who were in indigent circa instances and lacked relatives to support them; they were to be maintained by church gifts. In this connection cp. Ex. 22. 22; Deut. 14. 29; 27. 19; Psa. 68. 5; 94. 6; 146. 9; Ezek. 22. 7; Mal. 3. 5. The persecution and suffering through which the early churches passed led to the existence of a large number of those who were destitute, but the injunctions axe of general application for the churches throughout this age.
The word rendered” nephews” in the A.V. ceased to have that meaning. Hence the correct R.V. With regard to the phrase ”let them learn,” the context shows that this refers not to the widows but to the children and the grandchildren.
The verb eusebeo, rendered ”to show piety,” denotes to show reverence or dutiful regard, here in a practical way; the word is used only elsewhere in Acts 17. 23, and there of worship to God.
The phrase rendered ”to requite” consists of the verb epididomi, to render, and the noun amoibe, a requital or recompence. It here expresses the practical acknowledgment of the indebtedness of children and grandchildren to parents or grandparents by ren-dering back to them the sympathetic care which they themselves in their early years received.
for this is acceptable in the sight of God.– for the word apodektos,” acceptable,” see at 2. 3, the only other occurrence in the N.T. It is synonymous with euarestos, well–pleasing. See the R.V. margin of Rom. 12. 1, 2; 14. 18, R.V. text; 2 Cor. 5. 9; Eph. 5. 10; Phil. 4. 18; Col. 3. 20; Heb. 13. 21.
This statement shows that the injunctions are being regarded not from the merely moral point of view but from the Divine.
Everything is to be considered in the light of the revealed will of God, and in relationship of believers to Him. This lifts the present injunction above the mere standard of philanthropy,
Verse 5. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, hath her hope set on God, – the word rendered ”desolate” is in the Passive Voice of the verb monoô, to leave alone (akin to monos, only, alone); hence we might render it ‘is left desolate‘ (lit. ‘has been left desolate’). The word elpizô denotes to hope (not to trust, as in A.V.). It is followed by a preposition epi, here indicating the direction towards which hope looks; cp. 4. 10, where the construction of the same preposition points to God as tilt! ground upon which hope rests, S3 in I John % ‘A,” every one that hath this hope set on Him” (K.V.).’ In 2 Cor. 1. 10 and 1 Pert. 3– S the preposition is «£$; lit. ‘ into,” signifying that the hope is directed towards, and centres in, God.
and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. – the verb prosmem, a, strengthened form of mow, to remain or abide, is rendered” tarry” in 1. 3 (A.V. ”abide still”). For ”supplications” and ”payers” see at 1. 1. where, though the words in the original occur in the same order, they are translated” supplications, prayers.”
In the city life of the times there – was undoubtedly a large number of desolate and unprotected women, the outcome especially of polygamy. Converts among these, whose constancy and sted-fastness kept them from relapsing into the immoral conditions around them, would become a charge on the churches. Hence the ad monition in verse 5, which is now supplemented by specifications as to the manner of those whom it was incumbent upon the church to assist; indiscriminate disbursement of funds was to be avoided.
In genuine cases, loneliness and destitution are in such circum-stances associated with spiritually–mindedness and intercession,
“ Night and day” expresses, not the spending of the whole time uninterruptedly in prayers and supplications, but the con-stant exercise under all circumstances and at all times. Cp. what is said of Anna in Luke 2. H7.
Verse 6. But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth. – the verb spatalaô, rendered ”giveth herself to pleasure,” is suggestive of extravagant self–indulgence and luxury. It is used elsewhere only in Jas. 5. 5, R.V., ”ye have taken your pleasure,” A.V.,” ye have been wanton.”
Such a one is spiritually dead, though alive as to the flesh. A believer living in declension is dead, inasmuch as inactivity and barrenness characterize him spiritually. No fruit to God can be produced by such a condition. Cp. Rom. S. 13, and the message to the church in Sardis, Rev. 3. 1, A Greek poet ascribes the fol-lowing words to one of his characters:” I do not deem that such a person lives, but I regard him as a living corpse.”
Verse 7. These things also command, that they may be without reproach. – referring to the duties and warnings contained in verses 4 to 6. in all such matters there must ho the avoidance of everything that would afford reason for reproach, whether against the individual or the assembly. For anepileptos, ”without reproach,” see at 3. 2.
Verse 8. But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, – ”his own” refers to the wide circle of relatives;” his own household” are those who constitute the nearer circle of the family.
he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbe-liever. – membership of a church affords no ground for relaxing the mutual obligations of family life. On the contrary, the accept-ance of the Christian faith and alt it involves only enhances and strengthens such responsibilities. The faith is not merely a set of doctrines, it involves the practical fulfilment of what they set forth. These family claims are in general recognized and acknow-ledged by the world. Accordingly the professing believer who refuses to acknowledge them is acting below the standard existent among unbelievers.
The word rendered” infidel” in the A.V. does not denote what is now generally understood by the term. It signifies any unbeliever, as in the R.V.
Verse 9. Let none be enrolled as a widow – the verbô (from the corresponding noun from which the word catalogue is derived) here denotes to reckon in a list; the reference is doubtless to those referred to in verses 3 and 5, and the list would be those who were to be recognized by the church in the way referred to. Many expositors hold that the reference here is to a special class of widows, who, in view of the abounding distress and poverty, gave themselves to the care of orphans and other forms of charitable service, and, on offering themselves for such work, bound themselves by a pledge that, abstaining from marriage, they would devote themselves to the service mentioned; that the strict conditions laid down had regard to this female presbytery; that younger widows were to be refused, as they might be tempted to marry again, thus breaking their pledge.
Whilst all this is possible, there is no historical evidence for it as existing in apostolic times. The allusion to a list affords no proof of the establishment of any particular ”order” such as that of deaconesses. The general tenor of the passage points to a simple rail of those who, being genuinely destitute and helpless, were to be supported by the church, and the force of this is not necessarily lessened by the particular qualifications which follow.
The teaching of the passage is twofold; it relates to piety in the home and in the church. True piety is practical: it has its roots in communion with God; its fruits are seen in the cheerful and ungrudging care of the needy, out of love and devotion to the Lord.
under threescore years old, – lit., ‘having become not less than sixty years,’ referring of course to ago.
having been the wife of one man, – a requisite neither referring to re–marriage after the death of a first husband, nor standing in contrast to such an evil as polyandry, but enjoined as against the rejection of the marriage bond and that low standard of morality exhibited in facility for divorce and marriage to another man common in those days and unhappily increasing today in civilized nations which have had the light of the gospel.
Verse 10. well reported of for good works; – lit., ‘having had witness borne to (her) good works. ”The word for ”good” is kalos; in ver. 10 agathos is used. Some would regard these adjectives as merely interchangeable in this connection. Kalos, how-ever, directs attention to that which is fair, noble, honourable or beautiful, outwardly and visibly; agathos to that which, being good in character or constitution, is beneficial in effect. The distinctive meanings are well exemplified here: in the first case the word lays stress upon that which, being noble and honourable, bears a favourable report (not that it is not at the same time beneficial); in the second case the stress is on the beneficial character of the work.
if she hath brought up children, – whether her own or those of others; the phrase is a rendering of the single verb teknotropheô, to rear or nourish children, and is found here only in the N.T.
if she hath used hospitality to strangers, – this represents the single verb xenodocheô, from xenos, a stranger, and dechomai, to receive. This does not necessarily imply the possession of con-siderable means. Wealth is not a requisite for giving food and shelter, a virtue more especially in evidence in the East.
if she hath washed the saints ’feet, – the literal act, a familiar feature of Eastern hospitality, was a token of love, Luke 7. 38, and lowly service. 1 Sam. 25. 41, both of which were set forth by the act of the Lord in John 13. 14. Here it may be under-stood metaphorically of ministering cheer and refreshment, whether by hospitality or otherwise.
if she hath relieved His afflicted, – the verb sparked prim-arily signifies to be strong enough for and so either to ward off or to aid; in the N.T. it is found only here and twice in ver. 16. The verb thilibô means to suffer affliction, whether from the pres-sure of circumstances or from the antagonism of persons,
if she hath diligently followed every good work. –” dili-gently followed” is the rendering of the verb epakoloutheô, a strengthened form of akoloutheô, to follow; hence that addition of” diligently.” Here it seems to connote not only her own works, but a practical sympathy with those of others.
This forms a summing–up of all the qualifications enumerated.
Verses 11, 12. But younger widows refuse: – referring, not simply to the age–limit of sixty, but to younger widows in general.
They are set in contrast to the” widows indeed” (ver. 3). The word rendered ”refuse” is paraiteomai, the same as in 4. 7, where see Note.
for when they have waxed wanton against Christ, they desire to marry; having condemnation, because they have rejected their first faith. – the verb katastreniaô, to wax wanton, found here only in the N.T., is a strengthened form of streniaô, similarly rendered in Rev. 18. 7, and ”lived wantonly” in Rev. 18. 9. The prefix kata implies opposition, and is rendered” against.” The word pistis, usually denoting” faith,” here signifies plighted faith, a pledge of fidelity.
This simply gives the reason why widows younger than three-score years of age were not to he regards as eligible to be main-tained from church, funds. A young widow might, in the tem-porary pressure of sorrow and in all good faith, dedicate herself to a life of unentangled service to Christ, unaware of her natural susceptibilities. For such a one to marry afterwards would bring upon herself an accusation of instability and unfaithfulness. Her desire for re–marriage would be a perfectly natural one, and God takes account of this; hence the general principle that, however much they may be willing, it is too great a burden for them to bear and their pledge should not be received. Better not to promise (ban fail to perform and involve a charge of alienation of affection from Christ. Let such, then, rather seek to earn their living, or be free to marry again, in the Lord, and let not the church run the risk of encouraging such pledges.
Verse 13. And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; – lit., ‘ going about houses,’ Be-sides the danger of fickleness it is an unwholesome kind of life for a comparative novice, and there is the danger of falling into habits detrimental both to their own spiritual life, and to the unity and progress of the church. Freedom from the necessity of earning their own living would lead to this.
and not only Idle, but tattlers also and busy bodies, – the adjective phluaros, garrulous (from phluô, to babble), rendered as a noun (“tattlers”), is used here only in the N.T. The corresponding verb phluaveô, to prate against, is found in 3 John 10. The adjective periergos (“busybodies”) denotes one who is taken up with trifles, hence one who meddles in other persons’ affairs. It is used elsewhere in Acts. 19. 19, of ”curious (marg., ‘magical‘) arts.” The corresponding verb periergazomai is used in 2 Thess. 3. 11, and lit. denotes to be working round about, i.e. instead of at one’s own business; hence to be bustling about or meddling with other folks’ matters. There it follows the simple verb ergazomai to work, the two forming a play on words, which may be brought out by a free rendering of the sentence thus: ‘ who art: not busied in their own business, hut are overbusied in that of others.’
speaking things which they ought not. – that is to say, they are prone to make mischief, conveying from house to house bits of private; information, which have a tendency to grow in the tolling.
Idleness, gossip, intermeddling, the snares here referred to, cause endless harm in an assembly and are subversive of that unity which saints are to endeavour to keep.
Verse 14. I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give none occasion to the adversary for reviling: – for the word boulomai, “I desire,” expressing a deliberate will, see at 2. 8. In the original no noun follows the feminine adjective ”younger”; the context suggests the word ”widows” (the A.V. had ”women”). There is no inconsistency between this injunction and the advice in 1 Cor. 7. 8. The subjects in the two passages differ. Here the Apostle is speaking of the maintenance of assembly conditions and testimony; there of individual matters relating to the sexes. His instruction as to the re–marriage of younger widows (those under sixty years of age) is given as an antidote to idleness, sexual passion, and the evils mentioned in versus 11–13; he is not laying down a law binding upon cases to which such tendencies do not apply. There was nothing ascetic about the Apostle. He would have deprecated the vocation of female celibacy.
The injunction lays down, in regard to the life and witness of a local assembly, the necessity and value of the fulfilment of the responsibilities of Christian motherhood and house management (up. ver. 10). The home is the ideal sphere of a young woman’s work, and the best preservative of her spiritual life.
The word aphorme, “occasion,” denoted a starting point, then a base of operations in war (see its use in Rom. 7. 8, 11; 2 Cor. 11. 12; Gal. 5. 13).
The” adversary” does not here stand for the Devil; the singular number represents, characteristically, human enemies of the Truth. Such are ever ready to fasten upon whatever affords ground ”for a charge of inconsistency or immorality; eager, as Bengel says, to exaggerate the faiths of a few, and to lay blame on the whole church and its doctrines.
The noun loidoria denotes abuse, reviling, and is used elsewhere in the N.T. in 1 Pet. 3. 9 (twice). The preposition preceding it, rendered” for,” is charm, which here has its prospective significance, indicating a purpose with which a thing is done (cp. Gal. 3. 19; Tit. 1. 5, 11; Jude 16), as distinct from its retrospective import,” on account of, ”indicating the ground on which a thing is done (as in Luke 7. 47; Eph. 3. 1, 14; 1 John 3. 12). Here the injunction is against doing anything to provoke adversaries to speak evil of the Lord.
Verse 15. for already some are turned aside after Satan, – referring to some of the younger widows who, through seductive devices of Satan, had abandoned the path of” the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ” (2 Cor. 11. 3), whether by idleness, tittle–tattle, and acting as busy–bodies (ver. 13), or in other ways. Unable to continue a path of self–denial and desiring to marry, some had possibly fallen morally.
Verse 16. If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, – the adjective piste, translated ”woman that believeth,” may more literally be tendered ‘believing woman.’ Received text has as in the A.V., ”man or woman.”
There is a difference between this exhortation and that of verse 4. Verse 4 inculcated the duties of children or grandchildren towards those who brought them up: here, much as in verse 8, the duties of the latter arc laid down. But the scope is perhaps wider, including widows who, though they had no members of their own families to support, were in a position to relieve widows of other relatives.
and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. – these two admonitions, the one negative, the other positive, sum up the whole subject: (1) the funds of the church were not to be diverted to cases the needs of which could be supplied from private sources; (2) responsibility lay with the church to minister relief to those whose circumstances and condition were such as an: mentioned in verses 5 and 10.
Whilst such cases were probably numerous, they formed only special instances relative to the obligations of the church to minister to the poor. It was to the elders of this very assembly that the Apostle had given instructions that, following his example, so labouring (i.e. in self–denying activity and industrious occupation) they ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how– He Himself said,”It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20. 35).