εἴ τις πιστὴ ἔχει χήρας, ἐπαρκείτω αὐταῖς καὶ µὴ βαρείσθω ἡ ἐκκλησία, ἵνα ταῖς ὄντως χήραις ἐπαρκέσῃ.
If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows.
Paul concludes this passage with a final exhortation to believing women to care for widows in their family so that the church’s limited resources could be used to care for the true widows who had no family. There is some confusion about Paul’s use of πιστὴ. Though some manuscripts have πιστὸς ἢ πιστή or simply πιστὸς, πιστὴ is supported by both external and internal considerations.58 Paul could be referring to either young widows or wealthy widows (Acts 9:36–42). However, it is probably best to see this as any believing woman who has a relative who is a widow. The reason he addresses women instead of men is “because the woman in a household would bear the main burden of caring for a widow.”59 Since χήρας is plural, it may refer to not only a widowed mother, but perhaps grandmother or mother-in-law as well.
νεωτέρας δὲ χήρας παραιτοῦ ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, γαμεῖν θέλουσιν ἔχουσαι κρίμα ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν ἅμα δὲ καὶ ἀργαὶ μανθάνουσιν περιερχόμεναι τὰς οἰκίας, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀργαὶ ἀλλὰ καὶ φλύαροι καὶ περίεργοι, λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα. βούλομαι οὖν νεωτέρας γαμεῖν, τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν, μηδεμίαν ἀφορμὴν διδόναι τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ λοιδορίας χάριν ἤδη γάρ τινες ἐξετράπησαν ὀπίσω τοῦ Σατανᾶ.
But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan.
Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, εἰ ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν, εἰ ἐξενοδόχησεν, εἰ ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν, εἰ θλιβομένοις ἐπήρκεσεν, εἰ παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ ἐπηκολούθησεν.
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
Paul transitions from the families’ responsibility to care for widows to the church’s responsibility. He begins with the command to enroll true widows, further clarifying who those widows are.
"According to a recent paper published by sociologist Simon Brauer in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the number of religious congregations in the United States has increased by almost 50,000 since 1998. A key reason: growth in nondenominational churches."
With the historical and literary context addressed, it is now possible to look more closely at the passage itself. Verse three provides the underlying principle for the passage. In verse four, Paul gives his initial instruction to the family of the widow. Paul lays out the first criteria for true widows in verses five and six, before returning to his instructions for the family of widows in verses seven and eight. In verse nine, Paul moves to his instruction to the church regarding widows. In verses nine and ten, he deals with enrolling older widows in the care of the church, while in verses eleven to fifteen he gives his instruction for younger widows. He concludes in verse sixteen with a final exhortation for believing women to care for their own relatives in order to free the church to care for true widows.
From Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary’s DBSJ 21 (2016); posted with permission.
Paul’s instructions in his first epistle to Timothy are an invaluable resource to believers. They serve as a superb foundation for knowing how the church is to be organized and to function. Paul’s guidelines for overseers and deacons in chapter three are familiar to nearly all Christians as they consider who is qualified to serve in that capacity. The exhortations for Timothy’s life and ministry in chapter four have often been used to challenge both new and experienced church leaders to fulfill the responsibility they have received from God. Paul’s discussion concerning prayer in chapter two is a popular passage, both for church life and in discussions of God’s will in regard to salvation. One’s understanding of the role of women in the church depends heavily on the interpretation of Paul’s teaching in 2:11–15. These concerns make certain passages in 1 Timothy well-known among contemporary believers.