The Apostle Paul wrote to his apostolic emissary, Timothy, with some clear orders as to how he was to supervise the churches in
. Timothy was not a Pastor nor an Evangelist nor an Apostle or even a Prophet, rather he was an emissary commissioned by Paul, the Apostle, to carry out Apostolic duties in the authority or name of Paul. And one of the issues which needed to be addressed was that of Christian widows and which ones qualified to be cared for, with respect to their earthly needs, by the church. It is a very rare thing, today, to find a widow in prosperous countries who meet these criteria, but nonetheless this is still binding on the church if the criteria is met by a widow. Ephesus
(*A side bar - have you ever noticed the foolish insistence that one may not speak with certainty regarding knowledge and insight of another gender or race unless they are part of that gender or race? Nonsense. No gender or race is that special. And here Paul speaks quite clearly about certain issues pertaining to women. Understand, you have the capacity to comprehend and speak upon such matters which do not involve you personally. Nothing requires a personal experience of a context in order to speak on it and such a posture is simply narcissism by others. It is an excuse to ignore another when someone does not wish to hear what is being said.)
But what came to my attention was the portion about younger widows and Paul’s consideration for them. Here is the passage from which I wish to point out a few things:
11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
Paul makes it clear that younger widows are not to be put on any such list. Why? Because he resents them? Because they are a lower class? No, he directs them not to be listed because of a thoughtful consideration of the practical realities of their age and vitality.
To be on the list of widows required a widow, for one, to be exclusively committed to Christ through the work of the church. Paul states:
9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
Practical as Practical Can Be
Notice what Paul, the Apostle, understands, that young women who are widows are not magically removed from their natural and legitimate impulses which are quite strong at this age, rather that to deny the reality of such impulses and place a young woman in the position of making a vow to serve Christ via exclusive service to the church all of her days is to aid her in being placed in an irreconcilable position, thus resulting in the likelihood of her breaking her vows. No such guilt of inconsideration toward a young widow is something for which we need account. There is no need to place them in almost impossible situations.
Paul fathoms the nature of humans, he is no fool and neither should we be. From time to time one can find in the church a young widow or a young woman who has committed herself to some ministry in a rather righteous manner. She is unmoved by the suggestions of others to broaden herself. She finds it best to be known as devout, which is not necessarily a bad thing but I am making a further point.
However, one day, along comes Mr. Right or Mr. Seemingly Right (time will tell) and Dr. Jekyll’s Mrs. Hyde suddenly appears with many excuses as to why life has suddenly changed so and why she is now quite fluid in her station. It is a good thing she did not take a vow (and if you ever wondered where the concept of Nuns came from, here you go). She followed what everyone knew was very likely, not because she was lacking any love for God but because she is young and this is her natural impulse. This is much like a zealous young widow might do in miscalculating her own constitution and reality in taking the vow referred to in Paul's letter but later realize its permanence is unrealistic.
Then are Sensual Desires and Marriage, Bad?
One might, in error, conclude from verse 11 that Paul is treating a woman’s sensual desires and that of marriage as a bad thing. No, he is not. What he is stating, however, is that when you make a vow (these widow vows were publicly affirmed in the early church and were not private vows, they were much like marriage vows of today with which you are familiar) at this point you do so against good reason. While there are exceptions to this rule, God is even so practical as to lead the Apostle Paul to simply forbid such idealism from being treated with ecclesiastical sanction.
The word used for sensual desires is καταστρηνιάσωσιν (katastrēniasōsin) and it means to be restive or impatient against the restrictions of one's current conditions (here that of the vow of exclusive ecclesiastical devotion in service to Christ). And the cause of this is their normative desires toward social union which then lead them to desire marriage and all of its benefits.
Marriage and its benefits are not against Christ but when a vow is made to serve in the unique and exclusive way of these church widows, these things, if not understood to be vanquished with confidence, are in conflict with Christ because a certain vow has been made. So a young woman, in God’s view, simply cannot rightly make such an evaluation and take such a risk.
Paul counsels, then, that the younger widows marry. To use a modern colloquialism or or idiom, it is a “no brainer”. The Apostle states:
14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.
Why is this? It is because of the surrounding verses which address what the very common course is for a woman with no responsibilities and who lacks feminine and spiritual full maturity and which I am about to get to.
When we, either men or women, are busy with work and families we are busy with just that, our business and not the business of others. Our entertainment is limited because our responsibilities are significant, thus we need not find stimulation or entertainment in concerning ourselves with the business of others.
Men have their issues but women, here, have theirs and Paul makes fundamentally clear that an idle woman is prone to certain things. And this is why, by the way, your girl friends and their busybody ways ought to be canceling themselves out when you get married or else you will find yourself wrecking your marriage at the expense of gossiping with your friends about the private affairs of your life and the lives of others. But not all young widows or single women are guilty of this and they take such honor into their marriages and excel in the most marvelous way as a wife, mother and sister in the Lord.
The Path from Following Christ to Following Satan
There are many Christians who cannot imagine going from following Christ to following Satan, but it happens, more than you imagine. And of course the Calvinists and Reformed will hand over the same old line, "well, they must not have really been saved". Sorry, but Paul is writing about those he views as saved but falling into a trap.
But to the issue at hand and following Satan as a Christian. The problem is what many Christians define as following Satan. Unless it is an obvious trap or lifestyle in which clear Satanic devices jump out at you, the believer wandering away from Christ is considered just that, wandering away but not really following Satan, at least this is the view by a sizable number of believers.
Friend, Satan has so many schemes and ways which your wormy human and finite nose cannot detect that you, yourself, might be engaged in a little of that right now whether you know it or not. Look again at what Paul says:
11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
An idle woman finds something to take up her time and fill her need for stimulation, particularly younger women. She can either do the right thing or the wrong thing. Here Paul addresses how it is done wrongly and rather easily.
The first thing, outside of breaking their pledge (and let’s assume you have made no pledge but are simply single or a young widow) is going from house to house. Now we don’t do that today, instead we are on the phone talking to others about business that is none of ours. That is the equivalent to going house to house.
Secondly, they are busybodies, that is not only do they talk about business which is none of their but such women involve themselves - that is they insert themselves - into the business of others. I am confident either by experiencing this or practicing this you know what it is. Take some time. Watch the women and men around you and see who regularly inserts themselves where they do not belong. This is no benign fax pas Christian, this is Lucifer's well paved road.
Do You See the Road to Following Satan?
So Paul counsels them to live a normative life, one of responsibility. Now, you do not have to marry but marriage and family do have inherent demands which keep us busy with honest things, specifically our own concerns and our own business.
You can still be single and be honest and busy but Paul knows that the temptation is intense. You are typically living with the great desire to belong and be significant and to substitute this you can easily fall prey to the temptation to gossip and involve yourself in other people’s business.
Finally Paul says why he makes such counsel, so that the enemy (Satan) does not have an opportunity to slander. He does not want your life to be a slander against Christ.
But some do not heed this call to a busy and responsible life, rather they give way, as God’s children, to idleness, gossip, inserting themselves into the lives of others where they do not belong and eventually acquiescing in full to this lifestyle. Thus they turn away from Christian values, virtues and principles (being a disciple) and toward the satisfaction of their flesh, embracing this world’s system.
They are God’s children, lost in a sea of confusion and trapped by The Evil One in carnality of their own volition. But notice the progress of how they got there. It is not immediate and direct but subtle, slow and based in certain natural tendencies. Satanic seduction is often surreptitious. The water is cool and calm at first but slowly it comes to a boil before you ever wake up.
Heed the call of God, stay busy. This may seem like I am stating the obvious but in this day and age Lucifer has made the obvious to be treated like unsophisticated simplicity and something to eschew as unenlightened and by which to be embarrassed. It is simply practical counsel from God for us all, women and men.