“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, you’ll think it sounds a little patriarchal, as if the author is from a generation that’s a bit out of touch. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, leading New Testament scholars are convinced that the apostle Paul had one of the greatest thinking minds in the ancient world. Not only did he lead a developing movement that was destined to change the world, but even some of the greatest leaders of his day sought an audience with him. They wanted to know what he thought.
We’ve all been around people who can cast vision. What’s amusing about them is that they’re rarely gifted at organizing the details of executing their great vision. Others are gifted at organizing a plan to put a vision into action. Those two skill sets are rarely present in the same person, but they were definitely well developed in Paul’s life. Paul draws from a deep well of experience and wisdom.
When Paul wrote this, he was in mentoring mode. Timothy is Paul’s protégé in ministry, installed as the young pastor of a fledgling church plant in Ephesus. Paul is not giving a formula for being religious, he’s teaching Timothy how a community needs to operate. Paul understands that life in community can go south quickly if there isn’t a functional framework in place.
This isn’t a way to “put women in their place.” The goal for this new Christian community is to love its church members and treat them with dignity while an extremely pagan culture watched this new way of gospel-centered living. This kind of living in community 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 a new way to live.
It was pointed out to me recently that when you type “love” into your smart phone, it autocorrects to “live.” Paul was making sure both “love” and “live” were at work in this new community of families, centering itself on the gospel.