And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t. So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. For I am afraid that some of them have already gone astray and now follow Satan. (1 Timothy 5:13-15)
Have you ever wondered what you'd do if you somehow won or were given a lot of money - enough money that would mean you'd never have to work a day in your life?!
Would you invest they money or give most of it away and pursue your career? Or would you use it to live off for the rest of your life and simply relax, go on holiday or do whatever you felt like?
In these verses Paul continues his discussion on "the list". This was a list of widows who had pledged to not marry again, and whom the church supported financially. In return, these women used their time to serve in the church.
Paul had previously warned against placing younger women on the list as these woman may later decide they want to remarry and thus be faced with the temptation to break their pledge.
Now, in these verses, Paul outlines another reason not to put younger windows on the list. Effectively these widows had "won the jackpot"! They had their living expenses met by the giving of other church members and as such, they never needed to work again.
Paul's concern was that these younger widows, were unlikely to have developed the same spiritual maturity of older women, and so were more likely to be "lazy" and to use the time when they could have been earning a living, to gossip and meddle in the affairs of church members they were meant to be serving.
Essentially Paul's concern was that they would be no different to what people say young people are like today: lazy and entitled!
Whether that's a fair assessment of young people today or not, It cannot be the attitude of a Christian leader.
The very nature of Christian leadership is that it involves hard work. If like these young widows, you're thinking that having a leadership role gives you some sense of privilege with little responsibility, you're in for a shock! Not only will you be called to work hard and strive for excellence, you'll also need to make sacrifices at times.
Similarly, Christian leadership means getting involved in other people's lives and walking with them through hard times, pointing them towards Jesus. In the process you'll get to hear plenty of "gossip" and it can be tempting to needlessly pass on what's shared with you, even under the guise of a "prayer need".
Resist that temptation. It's a privilege to be invited to share in other people's lives and in particular to talk with them about their needs and struggles.
Resist too, the temptation to meddle, It's not your job to live someone's life for them. People have to make their own choices and sometimes deal with their own mistakes. If you find yourself making young people's decisions for them, or rescuing them when they make a mistake, you may have crossed to line from caring to meddling.
There is an old saying that, "the devil finds work for idle hands". It means that if people don't have anything to do with their time, they are more likely to get involved in doing something that is worthless and even sinful, than they are to do something of merit.
Paul would not have heard this saying but he certainly recognised the principle. His advice in today's vernacular is to "get a life!" When we face up to the challenges of our own full and busy lives, we are still able to be there for others and their problems but are less likely to become unhealthily preoccupied with them in a manner that leads to gossip and meddling.
Which of the following presents the greatest temptation as you engage in Christian leadership? To be lazy, enjoying the privileges of leadership without the sacrifice? To gossip about what is happening in the lives of those you lead? Or to meddle in people's lives by trying to make their decisions for them and rescuing them from the consequences of their actions?