14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 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 truly widows.

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

1 Timothy 5:14–19 ESV Read More

Paul is talking about the budget at the first century church! It’s not just about costs and money and who they can care for, though. It’s all based on spiritual issues. The young women that are widowed too early shouldn’t be destitute. They should jump back into the mix and give marriage and family another go.

The Christian Church at this point is a completely new concept and Paul wants to establish that Christians are trustworthy. Not lazy. Not irresponsible. Not freeloaders. But also not stingy. To stray from following Jesus into following Satan can look like a lot of things, so Paul is trying to show them as many practical ways to live out the Jesus-life as he can.

Preaching and teaching is honorable, because those tasks are spreading the good news about Jesus and building up the Church. Being “considered worthy of double honor” has been interpreted a lot of ways over the years. I don’t think it’s a math equation for computing a salary, but more of an expression. We honor teachers and preachers by heading their words, by listening to them intently, and doing what they teach.

The bit about muzzling an ox is from the Old Testament. It’s more about fairness and kindness than it is about buying your pastor a jet. It would be unjust to let an ox pull your plow, turn your mill, and do all of the work of your farm while keeping it muzzled and unable to take a bite of your grain. Moses teaches this in the context of harvesting olives, too. You don’t strip the tree clean, you leave some up there for the beggars, illegal aliens, homeless, orphans, and widows. “that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 24:19)

So be generous toward others and work hard to follow Jesus and take care of yourself. It’s wild but true how much the spiritual parts of our lives are directly related to such practical things. Pray and seek out how these first-century cultural tips for following Jesus apply to us today. You’ll be surprised how well it all still fits.

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