"The Physical & Spiritual Family"
This is part of a longer section (verses 3-16) that deals with widows and how the physical family and the church are to treat them. What role do we have in helping the "older" members of this congregation? Does this text direct our actions today?
The Physical/Spiritual Family
(1 Tim. 5:3-16)
A. Life is not fair. There has been discrimination of people for many reasons. We have discriminated against people because their status in society, because they are too rich or too poor, because of the color of their skin, because of their gender, because of an ethnic background, religious belief system, and because of their age. Mankind has looked for ways to devalue others.
B. Ten days after Jesus ascended back to Heaven, we have recorded in Acts 2 the feast of Pentecost. On that day about 3000 people responded to the message that Jesus is the Messiah and the only way to salvation. On that day the “Lord added to their number.” On that day the “church” began. At that time people were so closely drawn together that they sold extra land and possession to help out others. During those early days they experienced family. And in that experience the Lord continued to draw people into a saving relationship with Him and into a family relationship within the church.
C. Fast forward 25-30 years and we come to this letter that Paul is writing to Timothy about how to help the church be the church. What the church should look like, act like, and do. To that end reminds Timothy that the church is family. Read 1 Tim. 5:1-2.
I. The Church Family Helps
A. Not only do people desire a family, people desire a family that acts like a good functional family. It is one thing to say, we are your church family, it another to act like family. Family is there when you need them. Family is there when you don’t need them. Sometimes family bails you out, and sometimes family tells you “no “when tough love is needed. People don’t need another organization to belong to or another meeting to attend. People need family.
B. When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy he told this young preacher that the church is more than just a group of people with a common goal.
C. Sometime circumstances become difficult on a fellow Christian. One of the worst things that can happen is the loss of a loved one. 2000 years ago, when a man died, the widow oftentimes became destitute. Paul says that Timothy is to teach that the family has a responsibility to take care of their own, but when the physical family fails to do its God-given role, the spiritual family should step in and take over. Why? Because we are family and that is what families does. Families help each other and no one hurts alone.
II. The Physical Family Helps
A. What is so interesting in this text from Paul is that church is there as the safety net, the primary provider for Christians in need. There is no doubt, as you read through the Mosaic Law you will find the commands to take care of the widows and orphans. But you also find many times in their history where they did NOT take care of them. What happens then?
B. Forget for a moment about Jewish and Roman customs. Paul comes back to widows and divides them into the over 60 and under 60 group. Really what appears is those who can still remarry and those who are no longer going to remarry. To the younger widow, he tells them to remarry, have children, and focus on the physical family. The reason why is simple – it is easy to become idol, gossips, and busybodies when you someone is taking care of your needs and you have nothing but time on your hands. To those widows, Paul encourages them to live life again. To participate in the family unit. To be a great wife, mother, builder of a godly home. Even help other widows. So that the church can be the helper to those who really need help.
C. The physical family has the primary responsibility to take care of each other. In the verses that were read we heard that admonition. Take care of your mom, dad, grandparents. They brought you into this world, raised you, gave to you and now at an advanced age it is time you return that grace and love. That is your God-designed role. For those who shirk that role they are worse than an unbeliever. Did you think there was something worse than an unbeliever? You just read it. Take care of your own. Love your family. Never walk away from them.
D. Taking care of aging family members is not nearly as culturally relevant as it was 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago. The older person depends more upon the government and society than their own family. Older people often feel “bad” when they have to call a grandchild to give them a ride to the doctor’s office. They hate to inconvenience their family. God says to you and me – never let that become the norm of Christian. Take care of family.
III. The Church Is Also Family
A. We are familiar with the situation in Acts 6 where the distribution of the food to Greek speaking widows was less than to Hebrew speaking widows. The apostle chose men of faith to handle the serving of tables.
B. From early on the church has not been afraid to help out their own. But to take over the sole responsibility of their financial life can be a burden upon a church. Yet, burden or not, if needed, the church is called upon to be the family their own children refuse to be. The criteria for a widow being placed on the list are almost as high what it takes to be and elder or deacon within the church.
C. Yes, there are times the church has to step in and help, but to step in full-time, to be the sole support for a widow, means she need to be “work” for the kingdom of God has shown that in her life. Then, when the family has failed, the church must step in act on her behalf. We are family.
A. Fred Craddock tells of a time when he preached for a country church in East Tennessee. He recalled the first time people wanted to be baptized. He told how the church met at Watts Bar Lake. Then, those who were baptized went down into the lake with the preacher and were immersed in water. The new members changed their clothes in make shift booths and gathered around a camp fire with the rest of the congregation.
B. Around that fire members would introduce themselves and begin to offer their new brother or sister some part of their life. For example someone might say, “My name is … and if you ever need a ride to town, please call on me.” Others offered to help with children, some with laundry, and others to plant a garden. After they got to know one another it was time to leave.
C. Fred waited around to help clean up and put out the fire with Percy. Percy just soaked in the evening. He turned and said, “Craddock, folks don’t get any closer than this.”
D. We are family. The church has a responsibility to sue the fund given wisely and in honor to God. We are not simply a charity organization, we are family. I don’t believe that my life will end because I have no food to eat, no place to sleep, no room for in this world. The reason I don’t fear such an end is I believe in both my physical family and my spiritual family. God will take care of me, my job is to live for him.