A widow who is put on the list for support must be a woman who is at least sixty years old and was faithful to her husband. She must be well respected by everyone because of the good she has done. Has she brought up her children well? Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly? Has she helped those who are in trouble? Has she always been ready to do good? (1 Timothy 5:9,10)
Anyone who has ever spent any time reading the Bible will have come across a passage that they quickly dismiss as being "irrelevant". Yet one of the keys to hearing God through His Word is to not be so quick in dismissing what we read but to pause and think more deeply about what a passage is saying. On the surface, the content may seem irrelevant but maybe there are deeper principles which God is wanting to speak to us about.
Talking about the qualities of a widow on a list to receive support from the church may not be the most obvious passage to study for young leaders but it contains a number of gems.
If you've been working through 1 Timothy with us you'll notice a similarity between this list and the lists for the qualifications of a church leader and deacon found in chapter 3. Clearly being "on the list for support" was a big deal!
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that being put on this list of widows eligible for church support carried with it responsibilities. It was not simply a free handout. These widows wouldn't have had jobs (or they would not need support), nor at sixty would they have had dependent children.
This meant that they had time to assist in duties such as discipling younger women and prayer and as such needed to meet criteria similar to those for leadership.
A number of points clearly have relevance to you as a young leader. Firstly, there is a need to be "kind to strangers". When people come to your programme for the first time, first impressions really do count! Do you look out for new people and when you see them do you greet them and make them feel welcome? It's easy to talk with the people we know well but a genuine leader will put the newcomer first and show kindness to them.
The second point is that a leader needs to "serve others humbly". Leadership is not a status symbol designed to impress those we lead. Instead it demands that you look for ways to serve others. The question is not, "Am I enjoying being a leader?" It is, "Are others enjoying my leadership?"
Thirdly, a leader will "help those in trouble". When you start to lead you'll soon realise that those you lead have needs. Helping them when they face trouble is not an additional responsibility - it is at the core of discipling others. Nor is helping, simply giving them a Bible verse. Yes, the use of Scripture in pastoral care is important but it is not a substitute for practical assistance and support.
Finally, a leader will be "ready to do good". Simply "doing good" is meritorious. It speaks of action. But "ready to do good" speaks of attitude and underpins the other requirements. A leader with this attitude ingrained into their character will do more than look for ways to avoid evil. They will pursue that which is good, pure and helpful to others. They will be people who not only study God's Word, but allow it to shape their character.
Consider the four phrases mention in these verses: Kind to strangers, serves others humbly, helps those in trouble, and ready to do good. Which of these best describes you? Which of these points do you most need God's help in developing?