God expects His people to demonstrate His character in this world. We know that God is loving, just, and holy, but those characteristics are not always easy to define in practical ways. In 1 Timothy 5, we discover at least 4 ways that believers can demonstrate the character of God in very practical ways. The four telltale signs demonstrate that we get it; that we understand what it means to live as His people.
Respect for other believers (5:1-2). Paul used the terms father, mother, younger brother, and sister to describe how Timothy was to approach other believers. These terms remind us of the need to show respect when making an appeal to other believers. Paul also called for Timothy to approach younger women with purity, emphasizing the need for people to treat each other as image-bearers of the Creator and not as objects for our desires. Notice that Paul did not tell Timothy to ignore the need for correction or to avoid confrontation. What he directed him to do was approach the other person with humility and out of pure motives.
Taking care of godly widows (5:3,5-7). In those days, widows were left to fend for themselves. A widow had very little opportunity to provide for herself. Someone needed to step in and Paul called on Timothy to lead the charge for the caring of deserving widows. The help provided was to be a source of encouragement to these widows as they sought to represent Christ in their society and not a handout to enable ungodliness. We see both God’s love and holiness balanced in this directive. Widows in need received provisions, while the church held them to godly standards.
Caring for our family (5:4, 8). In the middle of this charge to care for widows, Paul directed Timothy to challenge family members to care for their family members in need. Families could not pass their responsibility to care for their family to the church. A system was in place for the widows needing help, but that did not absolve family members from doing their part or give them license to abuse that system for their own advantage. Paul had harsh words for the families who were capable of caring for other family members and failed to do so, classifying them as being worse than an unbelieving pagan. Remember, Jesus condemned the religious leaders of the day for declaring something as dedicated to God in an effort to keep from caring for their parents (see Mark 7:9-13).
Regard for our church leaders (5:17-21). How churches treat their pastor and other leaders serves as a means of declaring the gospel to the community. Paul pointed to three actions a congregation could take: providing a fair salary for the work done, defending the leader when falsely accused, and holding the leader accountable regardless of who they are. Defending and holding accountable serve as a check-and-balance for the congregation. On the one hand, they were to realize that some people would disagree with the church leader and might even seek to discredit him. The church was to take an accusation seriously, looking at the merit of the accusation before taking action. A substantiated accusation required action by the church regardless of how effective the church leader had been. Holding others accountable is not designed to humiliate, but rather to bring them to repentance and restoration (see Gal. 6:1).
Jesus reminded His disciples that they would be known by their love for each other (John 13:35). The way we treat each other as believers serves as a way for us to declare our faith in Christ and demonstrate the change taking place inside us as a result of that faith.