Today, we are continuing on in our “Seek the Welfare of the City” series. We’ve introduced this series over the past few weeks and stated off by laying down a few core ideas.
- That we are to engage the city, as people living between two worlds. We are citizens of an eternal kingdom who happen to reside in this passing world.
- The nature of our engagement is to be a proactive strategy of good works that will shield us from persecution and point others to our Father in heaven.
- We need to rethink money. Benefactor orientation
- Work hard in good occupations,
- Provide for our own families so as not to be a burden on others.
- Invest resources into the building up of others.
Over the next month or so we’re going to drill down deeper into this idea of what it means for us as a church to foster this orientation: to be a benefactor community that engages the city through our good works. So where do we start? It’s a big question isn’t it? You want to change the world and transform society – where do you begin?
Moms. We need to start with moms. I’m totally not kidding. And I’m not just saying this because its mother’s day. I didn’t even know it was going to be mother’s day today when I started preparing this message series – God’s got good timing.
Here is the rationale or why we need to start with godly moms.
• Because of the nature of the church You guys all have heard this enough – the church is a family of families – it will show up again very clearly in our passage today, actually. So here’s the point: we will never become established as a benefactor community as a church, unless our households are well established as benefactor households. Moms, obviously have a central role to play in that! It’s said that the father is the head, but the mom is the neck that turns the head. Historically, moms have not only been the neck, but also the heart of the household. (Don’t worry – we’re going to get to men next week.)
• Because of the opportunity for mission: If churches are to become benefactor communities in their cities, then they can expect the greatest opportunities to be when and where the greatest breakdown of their city/culture is occurring. In Canada that seems to be the moral decay of our cities and communities, especially the moral collapse of the family. William Bennett’s work The Broken hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family
- A generation ago odds were 1 in 4 that a child would witness his parents breakup, now 1 in 2.
- ½ of all first-born children are born out of wedlock
- more than 1/3 of American children are now living away from their biological fathers – 40% have not seen them in over a year.
- Co-habitation has increased 11-fold in the past 40 years, 1 out of 10 relationships last longer than 5 years.
• Because of the influence of mom! Moms have always been recognized for their influence upon the next generation. A Spanish proverb says: “an ounce of mother is worth a pound of priest.” People of success throughout history invariably credit their mothers. Indeed, in light of the statistic cited above regarding the epidemic of fatherlessness, mothers may carry more of the burden of raising the next generation than at any time in the past few generations at least.
Mom’s, I don’t speak today to burden you even more – your burden is heavy enough. But I hope I can encourage you to have a clear focus of your calling, while also encouraging your family to honor and share in your burden. Finally, I hope that God’s word can provide a blueprint for many of the young women here today, who may be called into the same vital ministry someday.
Filial Responsibility in the Church
1 Tim 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1Tim. 5:3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The first verses of Timothy 5 reflect some of the core ideas that we’ve already covered. In verses 1-2, we are seeing a general application of the concept of the church as a family. Yet starting in verse 3, Paul begins a section in which the Church as Family principle is applied very practically and specifically – what to do with widows who are left all alone with none to care for them. Again the principles of providing for your own and not burdening others come into play. Individual households should provide for their own parents in their own age, but if they are unable or unwilling, then it is up to us as their church family to show honor to them as we care for them. Interestingly, for someone to deny this sort of care toward their own family members would be cause for church discipline – as they would have denied the faith by doing so. The heart of the passage that concerns us today is found in verses 9-10:
The Model Mom
1Tim. 5:9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 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.
These verses speak to the character and testimony of this widow who is to be honored, and it is these verses that tie in directly to our study on seeking the welfare of the city. I am going to submit to you that these verses are not to be applied only to widows, but that they speak to all women. For how would you become this sort of widow, if you were not dedicated to pursuing these things as a wife, and how would you become this sort of wife, if you were not dedicated to fostering these things in your life even as a single woman, and how would you not know to foster these things in your life as a single woman, if you were not taught them as a young girl? See, we have lost our patterns in our modern world. No one is laying down the tracks so that the younger generations can follow, and they are lost because they have to try to figure everything out for themselves.
• Sets her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers. This is actually from earlier in the passage (5) but it needs to brought out here. Mothering is at times a lonely, thankless job – even when you have a husband! It also can be identity draining. These widows have learned to set their hope on God alone and have developed an intimate relationship with them.
• A one-man woman: She has been faithful. This mirrors the requirement for elders in Timothy 3 that they be one-woman men. I don’t think it means you have only married once, for Paul counsels younger widows to remarry later in the passage. But you’re a devoted spouse. Women, there is a stereotype out there that only men have affairs. A third of the cheating website's members are women
• A reputation for good works … devoted herself to every good work See this is where we get a bit off – we look at these widows as if they are exceptional – no this is the work that every Christian woman should strive for, for this is, as we have seen over the past three weeks, this is the work of the church. To be zealous for good works. This is what we strive for as a Church Family, it is what we strive for as individual families, and these women drive the family forward in good works, and in driving the family forward, the church goes forward as well.
Yet these works are not generic.
She has brought up children: The idea here means to nourish children. She has been a Christian mother, bearing and raising children in a godly home. The children would normally be her own but it may have been that she raised some orphans as well This is the greatest single privilege of a woman, and the first sphere of her influence – to be a benefactor of the next generation. The general principle is that when you're looking for a godly woman with an excellent noble reputation, the first thing on the list is has she nourished children? Has she raised godly children? That's the kind of woman you want moving around the community, giving instruction to your younger mothers, your younger wives.
Do not let our culture lie to you and disparage the raising of children. We live in a culture in which nearly 1/3 of children are aborted, in which the age of having a first child is steadily rising, in which couple who do have children are having fewer and fewer, and in which stay-at-home moms are reviled on the internet as having betrayed their gender. I’m not saying that every wife and mom should stay at home. What I am saying is that for a Christian, man or woman, career and money is never an end in itself. Career and money is a means to the end of seeking the welfare of the city through good works, and in this list directed toward women, raising godly kids is the first good work.
Do you realize that we live in a culture in which 80% of our young people are leaving the faith after university? Mom’s – you’re on the front lines. “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of priest.” You show Christ’s grace to your kids.
She has shown hospitality: Literally if she has welcomed strangers. We have to adjust our understanding of hospitality a little. We think of hospitality as referring to opening up our homes to others in the church. We’ll get to that, but that is not the primary focus here. This word infers that she has an open home and an open heart to people outside of the community of faith. This is getting to know and loving your neighbors. Community benefactor.
We live in a day when hospitality does not exist as it should. People are isolated and lonely. There’s a book called Bowling Alone in which a Harvard professor chronicles sociologically and statistically the decline in hospitality in the last few decades. Here are some of his findings. The number of people playing cards together is down 25 percent. The number of bars, nightclubs, and taverns where people used to congregate is down 40 percent. Full‑service restaurants where people walk in, sit down, and have a meal are down 25 percent, but the number of fast‑food restaurants are up 100 percent because so many people eat so many of their meals alone in their car.
Also, having a social evening with a neighbor is down 33 percent. Family dinners are down 33 percent. Having friends over to your home is down 45 percent. From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of Americans to make friends is down 33 percent.
Seeking the welfare of the city may begin for you by going for a walk. The weather’s getting nice now. Just go for a walk after dinner a couple of times a week and get to know who’s outside. Get to know the young families. Get to know the single moms. Get to know your elderly neighbors. Get to know the recently divorced. Get to know the neighborhood hippie. Whoever. Read your community newspaper and find out what’s happening in your neighborhood so you can talk with your neighbors and get their takes.
Stage two: you’re getting to know your neighbors, seek to bless them. Bring over some brownies to the young family. Offer to watch the kids of the single mom so she can have some time to do what she needs to do. Bring tea over to the elderly widow.
Stage three: your dinner table. That is you open your home and your life and your table and your fridge to serve, to host parties, to invite strangers over to become friends. You will be doing something that is exceedingly countercultural.
Stage four: share you faith in natural ways.
Stage five: be a person who welcomes strangers here at church too.
"If she has washed the saints' feet." The duty of a slave was to wash the dirty and dusty feet of people who wore sandals and all the roads were either dust or mud, it was either dry or wet. And people's feet were washed when they came into a home always and when they reclined at supper, it was obviously a necessity to do that. So this was a literal menial humble task. But it became a euphemism for a woman with a humble spirit, a woman with a humble heart who was willing to do that, and certainly on occasion she did that, but she showed herself as a humble servant.
You remember Jesus in John 13 washed the disciples feet. And He said, "You do to others what I've done to you." It isn't just as simple as washing feet, it is as simple as seeing a person have a need no matter how humbling meeting that need is, humble yourself and do it. So here is the character of a godly woman. This is a woman who has raised godly children. This is a woman who has opened her home to care for people who were in need. This is a woman who has done the most humble menial service rendered to someone else. She spent her life helping people, service at personal inconvenience, service with humility. No prominence, no self‑exaltation.
Fourthly, if she has relieved the afflicted. That simply means if she has assisted people in trouble. The word "afflicted" has to do with pressure put on people. Those under pressure, mental pressure, physical pressure, emotional pressure, whatever kind of pressure. Has she helped, aided, assisted people in trouble under pressure? Has she spent her life as a helper of other people? Resources for life? It might be meals, it might be housing, it might be counsel, it might be guidance, it might be service in sickness or death. It could be many things. Has she assisted people in trouble? Has she reached out to people in need or is she spending all her time on herself?
Windows into our culture:
• Nursing homes
• Unwed mothers
• Foster care/adoption
• Broken homes/children of divorce
• Broken finances
There is ministry all around us.
• Is your marriage strong and working according to the community guidelines?
• Are your children well- managed and becoming solid in the faith?
• Are you developing a strong financial base to assist your parents is needed.
• Is your household strong enough to be gaining a reputation for good works out of its own stability and resources including financial?