Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. But the widow who lives only for pleasure is spiritually dead even while she lives. Give these instructions to the church so that no one will be open to criticism. (1 Timothy 5:5-7)
One thing I've noticed as I reflect back on years of working with young people is that they seem to have an increasing number of choices in life. Some of these are relatively trivial such as which cereal will I eat (when I grew up supermarkets only stocked three!) or which "fast food" will I eat (for me it was fish and chips or... not much else!).
Other choices potentially have a greater impact on our lives such as. "What will I do to relax or entertain myself?" Again, the choices were once limited. I could sit in my room and read a book I'd brought home from the library while listening to the one radio station that played music young people liked. If I was willing to spend time around the rest of the family I might choose to watch the one TV station that existed, or I might listen to music on the family record player.
To young people today this all sounds very dull ("No wonder your generation loved to play outside!"), but of course it never occurred to us that we had a lack of choices and looking back I'm grateful for the world I grew up in.
With all the choices young people have today, the temptation to "live only for pleasure" is greater than ever.
It is this temptation that Paul is talking about in this passage in which he offers Timothy guidelines for supporting widows in the church. He contrasts two types of widows: those who place their hope in God asking Him daily for help, and those who live only for pleasure.
It's doubtful that any reading this are widows, but all I'm sure, understand the pull between these two ways of approaching life - living for God, or living for self.
More than any other generation, young people today are able to pursue pleasure in the privacy of their own rooms. They can talk to friends, watch movies, play games, browse video clips, read books, listen to music etc. etc. Much of it may be harmless but the fact that what they're doing is not monitored by adults makes the temptation to make wrong choices greater than ever.
As you take on a leadership role, the impact of these choices becomes greater. It's hard to lead effectively when Bible reading and prayer are crowded out by entertainment, especially entertainment that pollutes our mind.
Eugene Peterson who authored The Message translation of the Bible talked about a "long obedience in the same direction". I love that phrase! It talks about choices - daily choices that in the panorama of our lives seem small and inconsequential but can over time hugely impact the lives we live.
Your friends may be living only for pleasure" but you can be different! When God is the hope of your life - when you want Him more than anything else, then your choices will reflect that desire and He'll use you greatly as you lead others and serve Him.
What do you do for pleasure? Who are you when no one is looking? Think carefully about the choices you're making and resolve to make choices that draw you closer to God and heighten your capacity to inspire others to do the same.