Read: 1 Timothy 5:1-16
Mother Teresa is known to have said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Peace begins in the home. If you think about it, this path to world peace has the greatest possibility of sustainability. If you act nice to outsiders, but don’t take care of your own, you perpetuate a cycle of brokenness in the world. It reminds me of the adage that dentist’s kids always have the worst teeth, or that pastor’s kids are always naughty…I’m really hoping this one isn’t true! People in the helping professions often give their greatest time and energy to others, sometimes forgetting the needs of their own. But Paul knew this proclivity and had something to say about it.
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul writes about how the community of believers is called to first and foremost care for their own families, so that the church isn’t caring for everyone. This happens earlier in Scripture when Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who make a point of giving to the temple, but don’t take care of their own families. Jesus didn’t like this, and neither does Paul. Paul talks about how important it is for believers to care for family members, and even says that those who don’t are worse than unbelievers!
This ideology is not only obviously good for families, it is good for the church, and sustainable for the world. Churches cannot care for all of those who are sick, dying, in need of money, etc. Paul explains that the church’s job is to help the truly in need: the actual widows and orphans who don’t have a family to take care of them. And it is up to the family firstly to care for their own.
This is a far cry from our current model of living. When these passages were written, it would be common for many generations to be living together under one roof: the young caring for the old and the old caring for the young. But today this is an extremely rare lifestyle in the Western world.
In the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, he actually talks about the “Rosetto Mystery,” a study done several decades ago where a small community of Italian immigrants in the United States was outliving everyone else around them. After sociological and scientific insights, researchers discovered that although the community had higher rates of obesity and even heart conditions, they lived longer than others because of a sense of community, a pace of life where many generations lived together and cared for each other. Work was not as big of a priority as caring for family and checking in on each other. It turns out, caring for our own is not only a more sustainable plan for the church, it is also healthier!
I’m not recommending that we all move in to multi-generational homes. But caring well can be done in many ways. As you go about your week, think about how you treat your family in relation to how you treat people outside of your family. Are there ways you could do a better job of loving your family well?
Questions for Reflection:
- Do you care for your own well? Do you give your best time and energy to work, school, or even the church, instead of to loved ones?
- How could you better care for your family?
- What from this passage (1 Timothy 5:1-16) resonates with you? Does anything sound really counter-cultural?