Relating to Others

Chatswood Baptist Church

1 Timothy 5:1-16


Learning to relate

When you get married   

When you get married there are lots of things to work out because you are bringing together two people who come from two different kinds of families with different ways of relating to one another and doing things. There are little things like whether you refrigerate the vegemite or whether you just leave it in the cupboard. I came from a family that used to keep the vegemite in the fridge, but Kylie from one that kept it in the cupboard. When we got married, we had to make that important decision as to whether it would be the cupboard or fridge. In our household the vegemite ended up in the cupboard and it only occasionally finds its way into the fridge when I’m not thinking about what I’m doing.

Of course, there are much more significant issues to sort out like how you’re going to relate to each other’s family. Some families who live in the same city, live in each other’s pockets and for others it’s just an occasional visit now and then and a phone call in the in between times. When you first get married you are on a little bit of a learning curve. You are not only learning to relate to one another but a wider group of people who have now become your family as well and it takes a bit of time working out how you are all going to relate to one another. Should you call your in-laws, ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ or do you use their first names? Should you give your mother-in-law a kiss or a  hug when you greet her, or do you just say ‘hello’? Do you give her a hug when you are saying ‘goodbye’? Do you shake your father-in-law hands or just give him a friendly pat on the back or do you wave or give him a nod? It’s complicated and can take some working out. It took me about 5 years or more to call my mother-in-law anything. When I talked about her to Kylie it was always “your mum” and somehow when I was talking to her mum directly, I just avoided calling her anything until finally one day I said, “How about I just call you ‘Judith’”. It felt strange at first but then it just started rolling of the lips.

When we become Christians

When we become Christians, it is a little similar. You are not only working out your relationship with the Lord Jesus when you become a Christ, but because you now belong to him, you have also become a member of his household and there are whole bunch of others to learn how to relate to and care for. In chapter 5 of 1 Timothy the Lord has provided us with some guidelines about how we are to relate and care for one another as members of the church. These instructions were given by the apostle Paul to Timothy to help him to know how to relate to the other members of the church in Ephesus and for him to pass these instructions on to the church so that they understood how they were to conduct themselves.

Timothy need these instructions because he had been left in Ephesus to straighten out the church there. He was to do this by commanding certain men to stop teaching false doctrines which wasn’t promoting God work (chapter 1) and he was to instruct the believers in the good teaching that he had received and set them an example of the godliness that is the fruit of the gospel (chapter4). In chapter 5 that we are looking at today Paul gave Timothy some further instructions explaining how Timothy as a young man was to relate and care for the members of the church.


Relating to others in the church

Today/tonight we want to look at the first 16 verses to understand how we are to relate and care for the others who are part of the Lord’s household. There are two basic main ideas that I want to highlight from these verses. Firstly, in verses 1 to 2 we see that we are to treat others like family and from verses 3 to 16 we see secondly that we are to care for those in need.

  1. We are to treat others as family

Paul begins this chapter by giving specific instructions to Timothy about how he was to relate to different groups of people in the church. What we see here is that we are to treat others as family.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.[1]  (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

Timothy was to deal with the people of the church using the same tone and manner that he would have used to deal with the members of his own family. He wasn’t to rebuke an older man harshly but to exhort and encourage him in the way that he would have gently exhorted his own father. He was to treat younger men like they were his brothers and older women as though they were his mother and younger women like sisters. He wasn’t to treat them all the same, but to take their age and their sex into account and to treat them as he would have treated the members of his own family who were of the same sex and of a similar age.

As we are all members of God’s family this is the way that all of us are to relate to one another. We are to treat others as family for since we belong to the household of God, we in a sense have become family. What this means for you will depend on your own age and sex. As Timothy was a young man, Paul gave examples that accorded with a younger man’s perspective. When I was a young pastor I used to relate to directly to these words to Timothy as a younger man, but now for me at fifty- six I relate to Paul’s words from a slightly different perspective. The principle is the same – treat others like they were the members of your family. As an older man, I’m to treat younger women and men like I would my own children and older people around my age like I would my siblings and much older people like I would my mum or dad. This principle is for people of all ages and stages in life. Younger people should show those who are older than them the same sort of love and respect you would show your parents or grandparents. Older people treat younger people in the church with same love and care that you would exercise for your own children. Be kind and patient with the children running around in the same way that you would be if they were your own children or perhaps grandchildren.

Timothy is given two specific words of counsel that seem to particularly apply to him as young man. He is to not rebuke an older man harshly but exhort him with the same sort of love and respect he might show his own father. With respect to young women in the church as a young man he was to treat them like he would a sister with absolute purity. Kent Hughes comments that “Timothy was to treat women with the same chaste manner and protectiveness that he would afford his own flesh-and-blood sister.” Sadly, too often this hasn’t been the case with men in pastoral leadership who have taken advantage of women under their care. But happy and blessed is the church that takes these words to heart and treat one another as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.


  1. We are all to be taking care of one another

If the first thing we are to do is treat others like family, the second thing that we are to do is we are to take good care of others. This becomes clear in what Paul says to Timothy about widows. Paul makes several points about how the church was to honour widows and what he says in these verses shows that we are all ought to be taking care of one another.

2.1 We are to care for widows who have no one

Paul firstly tells Timothy that the church is to be taking care of those widows who had no one to take care of them.  In verse 3 Paul told Timothy that he (and the church) are “to give proper recognition” to those widows who are really in need. Literally, Paul said to Timothy that he was “to honour” widows who are “really widows”. Paul wasn’t talking about having to take care of every widow in the church but those who needed to be taken care of so that everyone was taken care of.

Without a family in the ancient world you were often left destitute without any means of support. In verse 5 it becomes clear that this is the sort of widow that Paul is talking about. The “real widow” is the one who is left all alone in the world and only has the Lord to turn to cry out to for help which she does night and day. The “honour” that these women were to receive was the sort of honour that saw them supported and cared for in the way that normally their family would have cared for them if they had one. It was when they had no family and were in needed of help that the church was to honour them in this way. We are to love and care for one another as believers especially those who are in need among us. The apostle James writes…

James 1:27

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


2.2 We are to care for our own relatives.

But such care by the church wasn’t to replace or subvert the responsibility that believers had to care for their own relatives especially the members of their own immediate family like their mother or grandmother. Paul told Timothy that widows were to be cared for by their families to better enable the church to look after those that had no families.

1 Timothy 5:16

16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

The church was to step in when a widow had no one, but if a widow had children or grandchildren it was their responsibility and privilege to care for their mother or grandmother.

1 Timothy 5:4

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

We are to always care for one another especially the members of our family. Paul gives two reasons. First, it was right that they should repay their mother or grandmother for the care that they had received when they were young. Even pagans, people who don’t know the Lord do this. But for us who know the Lord and his love and care for his people, it is also a matter being godly and putting our religion into practice. It is matter of doing what we know pleases God[2]. Paul told Timothy that he needed to pass on these instructions to the people in the church so that they won’t be open to blame. Paul warns Timothy and his hearers in verse 8. He writes…

1 Timothy 5:8

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

We have as believers have this obligation to care for the members of our own family. This isn’t just a matter of supporting them financially if they become destitute. The passage isn’t trying to limit what it means to “honour” a parent to just this, but it is saying that honouring them will at least mean properly looking after their physical need. But honouring them will also mean more than just supporting them financially. But caring will mean more than this. It will also mean taking and interest in them and supporting them emotionally and spiritually. It will mean praying with them and talking with them.

When we were children it was our parents who provided the love and support that we needed, but when they get older the tide turns and runs back the other way and it is our privilege to provide the love and support that they need. Paul writes that to not do so is to deny the faith. I think it denies the faith for genuine faith always expresses itself in love (see 1 Timothy 1:15, Gal. 5:6).


2.3 A register of widows who cared for others

The importance for caring for one another is highlight in the mention of the widows register. Paul seems to suggest that the Ephesian church had a register of widows who cared for others. In verse 9 to 15 Paul tells Timothy which widows should go on this register and those who shouldn’t. Some believe this register to be a register of the widows that the church supported, but I don’t think this is what this list is all about for the qualifications would have immediately ruled out any needy widows under the age of sixty. I don’t think that Paul was suggesting that the younger widows in need had to wait until they turned sixty or you were to support them until they became a little godlier. It seems to me that the list that is mentioned her is more of a register of widows who had made some sort of pledge to serve Christ and care for others in the church rather get married and care for a family. Paul writes that only widows who are over sixty and were known for their good deeds were to go onto this list.

1 Timothy 5:9-10

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

To get on to this register you not only had to be over sixty, you had to have been faithful as a wife, and well known for having cared for (brought up) children and showing hospitality to others and serving God’s people  (washing the feet of the saints) and helping those who were in trouble and doing all kinds of good deeds for others. These older widows who cared for others were registered and recognised by the church in Ephesus. What they did wasn’t only valuable but was an example to everyone to care for one another.


2.3 Younger widows

Paul instructs Timothy not to put younger widows on such a list. Paul wrote their natural desires would eventually lead many of them to want to marry again and break any pledge that they might have made to serve in this way. Secondly, Paul believed that younger widows were better off learning to serve and care for others in the context of a home and a family. We know from chapter 4 that some of the false teachers were forbidding people to marry and have families. It may have been this sort of ascetic teaching was influencing people to think that godliness only came by abstaining from marriage. This teaching perhaps had already influenced some of the widows in Ephesus into thinking that the shouldn’t get married in order to be godly. But in verse 13 Paul seems to argue that such ascetism had merely led to an unhelpful idleness among these widows.

1 Timothy 5:13

13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.

These widows weren’t learning to be godly for Paul literally says that they were learning to be idle. They weren’t devoting themselves to good deeds but were merely going about house to house. Unlike the widows who were well known for their good deeds these widows were learning to become gossips and busybodies going on about things that they should not have been talking about. Paul therefore counsels the younger widows to marry and learn to be godly in the context of normal family life.

The great mistakes that ascetics have always made is they think that you must withdraw from the world and the rhythm of normal everyday life and relationships in order to be godly. History has sadly seen people lock themselves away in monasteries taking vows of silence and solitude in order to become godly. There were even ascetics who sought to get away from the world by sitting at the top of very tall poles for years. Whether on a pole or in a monastery they made the same mistake of thinking you need to cut yourself off from the world to become godly.

The reality is that you learn to be godly as you know Christ and you learn to love and care for those around you wherever you are. A family isn’t an obstacle for learning to be godly, but the home is the very setting in which we are to learn to be godly. Indeed, whether you were to be appointed as an elder or a deacon in chapter 3 or as enrolled as one of the godly widows here in chapter 5, you only qualified if you have first proven yourself faithful in the home. We need leaders who know how to care for whatever family they have because we are to love and care for one another like a family.


  1. Living together as God’s household

When you belong to Christ you become members of his household. Like it or not you inherit another much bigger family that you have to learn to love and care for. It might feel a little strange at first just like it is a little strange when you first get married and you suddenly have this whole new family that you didn’t have before but you are not expect to relate to. If we are going to train ourselves in godliness, like Timothy we need to learn how to relate to one another.

3.1 Learn to treat one another like family

In this passage Paul has explained that firstly it will mean learning to treat one another as family. Learn to engage and talk to others with the same care and respect that we ought to be showing to the members of you own family. Of course if you

3.2 Learn to care for one another

Secondly, we are to learn to care for one another. If you have family that need love and care, then start there – love and care for them. Learn to be godly and put your religion into practice so that others don’t have to take responsibility for what is really your responsibility. But our responsibility doesn’t stop with our own. We are all to be taking of one another. We are to be people who look after one another.

3.3 Learn to love one another

One of things that the early church became well known for was the way that they looked after one another. One early church father, called Tertullian, wrote in around AD200 that the pagans were astonished at the way that believers loved and cared for one another. Tertullian wrote that the pagans would say, “See how they love one another.”[3]Would not that be something if the people around us here in Chatswood saw how we treated one another as family and how cared for one another and said to one another “see how they love one another.” Let’s learn to live as members of Christ household and put of religion into practice. Let’s learn to love one another.


[1]The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition., 1 Ti 5:1–2). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2]Honouring your father and mother was the fifth of the ten commandments that the Lord gave to Moses for his people on Sinai (see Exodus 20:12). To love and honour your parents was to love and honour the Lord. Jesus accused the Pharisees and teachers of the law of not honouring their father and mother and putting aside the word of God for their own tradition (see Mark 7:9-13). The apostle Paul called children to obey their parents and then said that that to “honour your father and mother was the first commandment with a promise (see Ephesians 6:1-2).