I often wonder how we’d go at being a member of one of Paul’s churches. Think about the list in 1Tim 5…
“No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list.”
That seems pretty harsh right? What about unique circumstances? What about if they’re 58yrs old? What if they haven’t done those good things and they’re just starting out in the Christian life?
Now I’m pretty certain Paul would have opened the door to exceptional circumstances, but that’s just a hunch, because he’s not hinting at that here to Timothy is he?
The point is that Paul endorses a structure, a church system for loving many people, rather than every person. Why? Why not just say, “Work out if being on the list is good for widows or not on a case by case basis?”
Think about that, remembering this is God’s word…
Structures are there to love people, many people. I’m sure that there would have been widows (and their friends) in Ephesus with Timothy who would have felt really hurt by where Paul drew the line. Some people would have felt it was unfair. Others would have found it difficult to understand his reasoning (which he describes only briefly). But how should they have responded to Paul’s widow-list system?
Are you happy to be in a church where Jesus appoints overseers to make decisions to love many people over the individuals? If you’re an overseer at a church (pastor, elder, minister, etc.) do you feel the weight of making decisions that try to love the most, even if some people won’t like it?
p.s. I’m not saying it’s bad to ever have “case-by-case” basis, but rather that “hard-and-fast” systems are not bad. There’s a tension to hold between saying both “every-member-matters” and “we do it this way to love more people”