Over the last couple of years, 1 Timothy 5:9 has become a popular verse among some folks in the Churches of Christ. Strange.
In the New International Version, it reads as follows: “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband,” . . . The character sketch of the widow who may be placed on the list obviously continues. But verse 9 is enough for those who want to make a point. And their point goes like this:
What group of elders would want to say, “We’ve decided that, as a church, we’re no longer going to help any widow of the congregation unless she is--in the words of 1 Timothy 5:9-- over sixty.”? What church would stand for a decision like that? Wouldn’t we think it was foreign to the Spirit of Christ for a group of elders to announce a policy like that? And yet, there it is in black-and-white in your Bibles! If a widow is only 59, don’t help her.
That’s a near verbatim statement from a recently-preached, wide-distributed sermon which, of course, has a larger point to make. And that larger point goes like this:
When we come across a passage that says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:12), maybe we should treat that statement the same way we treat the one in 1 Timothy 5:9. Paul didn’t intend for it to be applied in every church in every time. Because if he did, then in order to be consistent, we would have to cut off all widows 60 and under from services and assistance provided by the church. So, again, this means that twenty centuries later we have the same right, even responsibility, to look at 1 Timothy 2:12 in a different way, just as we look at 1 Timothy 5:9 in a different way.
I’d like to suggest that 1 Timothy 5:9 says no such thing. As the week goes on, I'll explain why.