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Desire (1 Timothy 5:11,12)

The younger widows should not be on the list, because their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ and they will want to remarry. Then they would be guilty of breaking their previous pledge.

I recall meeting with a teen in our youth ministry who was getting over a breakup with a young girl. "I'm finished with girls!" he vowed. With a smile I suggested he write this down and I'd read it at his wedding one day. I recall he duly wrote out his "pledge" and handed it to me.

I learnt that in time he did in fact get married though fortunately for him we were not in touch at the time and he avoided the embarrassment of having his pledge read out loud!

In these verses Paul continues to make reference to a "list" of widows who were entitled to financial support from the church. It would seem that a condition for being placed on this list was a pledge to never marry again.

For this reason Paul recommended that women younger than sixty not be added to the list. His concern was that they would be faced with too great a temptation to break their pledge should they meet someone they were attracted to. To use his words, he feared "their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ".

By stating this, Paul was not intending to insult younger widows. He was not making a blanket statement that these women were likely to act immorally. Instead he recognised that physical desires are powerful and pose a threat to our relationship with Jesus.

Most of you reading this are likely to be young and unmarried. You'll have made some declaration of intent to remain sexually pure outside of marriage, whether that took the form of a formal pledge or not. That is good - I hope you have!

All of us though have read or seen someone well known in Christian circles who has had a moral failure. The implications, for them personally as well as those they were leading, were great.

I recall talking with a young person whose youth pastor had left his wife and started living with a young woman who had been part of the youth ministry. "How can I now trust anything he has told me about Jesus?" she exclaimed. "He baptised me - what does my faith even mean now?"

While walking away from his faith, this youth pastor had also damaged the faith of those he had led and discipled. The greater the level of responsibility we take on in the church, the greater the damage that is left in our wake when we act immorally.

It's important for you to remember this as you start to take on significant leadership responsibilities. Young people are starting to look up to you and while you have opportunity to influence them for good, you also have the potential to harm their faith by your poor witness and any immoral behaviour you engage in.

A key to overcoming temptation is to acknowledge your vulnerability. Paul is right: our physical desires are powerful and in moments of weakness can even overpower our devotion to Christ. If you don't believe that is true for you then you've already taken that first step toward moral failure.

A number of years ago a youth pastor confided in me about an attraction he felt toward one of the church's worship leaders. They were both happily married and she had said or done nothing to indicate that the attraction was mutual. For his part he had not done or said anything inappropriate but he recognised that he was facing temptation.

Determined not to fail, he asked me to keep him accountable for his thoughts and actions toward this young woman. That was one very smart youth pastor! He recognised the power of desire and his own human weakness and realised that he needed someone to stand alongside him.

He overcame the temptation and years later is still happily married with 5 children and still in paid ministry.

Reflection

What temptations and desires do you face that have the potential to undermine your leadership? Be honest with God about these and ask someone to hold you accountable. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you're strong enough to cope alone. You have an enemy the devil who is cunning, clever, and determined to plot your downfall. We need each other.