“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
At first glance, Paul’s instructions to Timothy on how to care for widows in the church at Ephesus seem harsh and selfish, but they are neither. Everything we think, speak, or do has an opportunity cost that can never be reclaimed. If resources are depleted on those who can care for themselves, those resources will not be available later for others in real need which could be the same person in a different circumstance.
But why are people who do not care for their own worse than infidels? Nonbelievers are expected to be selfish and controlled by the natural man, but born-again believers have a choice because we have access to the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:13). The natural man is perfectly content letting everyone else do the heavy lifting. The natural man will let another man fish instead of learning how to feed himself. The natural man is selfish by nature and by choice. Believers in the Lord Jesus want to love our neighbors as ourselves, and true love sets boundaries. True love inspires and challenges us to do the work that maturity and growth require. The Holy Spirit inspired words to Timothy reveals the love of God calling us to become a certain type of person and to help others do the same. We are called to be mature and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
The path of an abundant life full of meaning and purpose on earth and a promise of eternal life to come is paved with opportunities to care for people and things God trusts us with, and he doesn’t expect us to go off somewhere and figure Kingdom living out by ourselves. He has provided scripture, the church, and his Spirit to guide us into becoming who we are capable of becoming. He invites and teaches us how to grow. God invites us to step toward him like a parent encouraging a child to simply trust.
One day we will each give an account of how well we cared for the people, things, and opportunities God has put under our authority. Because of this, we should know what is expected of us so we can be faithful stewards. Though it seems simple enough, becoming a good steward often requires change, and change, even when it is for the best, can be painful.
Practicing Kingdom stewardship means we intentionally and habitually think about and act in ways that bring about life and flourishing. Being good stewards means we are always ready and mindful of our master’s appearing to judge the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).
We can do the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons and still be poor stewards (Luke 11:44-46). The only way we will know the difference is by God’s help. Some things we need to do, like how to take care of widows, are spelled out for us, but many are not. Instead, we are wise to seek principles instead of just instructions. Holding a door open for a stranger, picking up a piece of trash, speaking kind words, and being consistently on time and dependable are all ways to take care of our own. Remember, it is not about adhering to a list of rules. It is about relationships.
– Richard Harwood from The Guild