So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.
[1 Timothy 5:14 ESV]
There’s a chance, as you read this verse that you think this verse sounds patriarchal as if the author is from a generation that is out of touch. “Keep up!” you want to shout at the writer.
The author’s true intention is not to try and get a new generation to act like an older generation. He’s not saying, “Back in my day…” He’s not creating a generation gap. His motivation is to build a bridge between generations.
New Testament scholars are convinced that the Apostle Paul was one of the greatest thinking minds in the ancient world. He lead a movement that was destined to change the world. The greatest leaders in the first century – love him or hate him – sought an audience with him. They wanted to know how to live and lead.
In his book Love Does, Bob Goff writes, “I’m not that great at spelling and thankfully my phone autocorrects the words I type for me. What I’ve noticed, though, is that almost every time I type in the word love, it gets changed to the word live.”
Everything Paul taught about living was based in love. Love was the motivation behind everything he taught.
This goes back to the Greatest Commandment taught by Jesus: “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’AND(emphasis mine) You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We’ve all been around people who can cast vision. It’s funny, but those people are rarely gifted at organizing the details of executing the vision. Others are gifted for organizing a plan to put the vision into action. Those two skill sets are rarely present in the same person, but they were definitely very well developed in Paul’s life. Paul draws from a deep well of experience and wisdom.
When Paul wrote the verse that introduces this article, he was in mentoring mode. Timothy is Paul’s protégé in ministry. Timothy was installed as the young pastor of a fledgling mission church in Ephesus. It wasn’t appropriate in this situation for Paul to give Timothy a formula for being religious. Instead, Paul teaches Timothy how a Gospel-centered community operates. Paul understands that life in community is fragile without love. Love is the main ingredient needed for the framework to function.
The verse above wasn’t written to “put women in their place” or to “establish God’s order”. The goal for this new Christian community is to love each individual member and treat them with dignity while living in a hyper-pagan world, which, by the way, watched with great interest this experimental, new way of living. This kind of Gospel-centered community living provided a safety net for young women who suddenly found themselves widowed in a culture that was notorious for enslaving the weak and poor. This was definitely a radically new way to live. To love.