“[…] I desire the younger widows to marry, to bear children, to manage a household, to give no opportunity to the opposer to criticize.”
~1 Timothy 5:14
I have mixed feelings every time I read this passage.
Why did Paul’s advice differ from that given to the women in Corinth ten years earlier? (1 Cor. 7:8,9)
Why did Paul assume that a younger woman was incapable of controlling her sexual desires to the point of remaining single? (1 Tim. 5:11)
Christian women in the first century did not have less help from God’s holy spirit to exercise self-control, so it seems to me he made a rather sexist assumption. (Gal. 5:22-24)
While I can understand that some women who had originally felt hopeless and asked for the congregation’s material assistance might eventually backtrack on their choice and decide to remarry, it is a bit irritating that Paul would state that choice as a matter of fact. (1 Tim. 5:12)
It does seem that he was more concerned with protecting the congregation’s reputation than he was with advocating women’s rights.
While I struggle to see beyond my scope of modern millennial culture, the 2011 Watchtower, July Study edition, points out: “Paul’s words are directed to certain ‘younger widows,’ but the principles he mentions apply to all of us.”
The article goes on to explain that when we keep ourselves busy with good works, we are less likely to do harm to others, for example through gossip. (1 Tim. 5:13)
Paul also stressed the need for extended family members to care for each other first. (1 Tim. 5:16)
So whatever Paul’s reasons were for wording his instructions the way he did, the principles underlying his advice are timeless.
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if ever a woman after divorcing her husband marries another, she commits adultery.”
Jesus added the exception that a divorce can be legitimate before God if the betrayed spouse files “on the grounds of sexual immorality.” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9)
In Jesus’ day, Jewish culture did not allow women to file for divorce.
If a man cheated on his wife, he was not considered an adulterer.
A woman who cheated on her husband was an adulteress, and the man whom she sinned with would be committing adultery against her husband.
But they did not consider it possible for a man to commit adultery against his wife. (Watchtower July 15, 1995, pp. 18-19, parr. 12-13. “Christian Women Deserve Honor and Respect.”)
With his statement on God’s view of marriage, Jesus pressed his followers to rid themselves of the double standard.
By using the example of a woman who “divorces her husband,” he was dignifying women, giving them that freedom of choice.
Many traditional cultures today still urge female victims of adultery to overlook their husband’s infidelity.
Sometimes their friends and family will excuse the male’s behavior by saying that it is typical in all men, arguing they did not really hurt anyone.
When a social circle does that to a victim, they are isolating her and taking away her will power to do what is right in her heart.
They may go so far as to shame her instead of the culprit, blaming her for his moral fallout.
As true Christians, we must learn to react to others’ suffering the way Christ did: with sensibility and respect, putting their needs before our own expectations.
“[…] Whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven.”
When we are waiting for a decision to be made by our congregation’s body of elders, we can easily lose patience if it affects us personally.
When Jesus was talking about things being bound or loosened, he did it in the context of someone on trial.
When a body of elders holds someone to account for their sins, they need to be careful not to rush into rash judgments based on hurt feelings.
Jesus implied elders’ decisions should be based on principles laid down in heaven, and the same principles should guide them when reinstating someone into the congregation. (2 Cor. 2:6-8)
“[…] If you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.”
Often we think of mercy as an accessory to justice. But really, justice is a means for God to express his mercy toward us.
Because of his mercy, Jehovah God sent his only-begotten son to earth to die for our sins. (Ro. 5:8-11)
Jesus thereby satisfied God’s law of ‘a life for a life,’ replacing Adam as our first father, and opened the way for us to reconcile with God. (De. 19:21; 1 Cor. 15:45)
God’s law was founded on mercy, so Jesus highlighted mercy as the underlying principle in the application of his law.
If we are motivated by a sincere desire to aid those who are at a spiritual or material disadvantage, our heavenly Father takes notice. (Prov. 19:17; 2 Cor. 4:1,2)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What do you value most in life? What consumes the greater part of your time and effort?
Although Jesus did not have wealth or a prominent career, he was obviously successful in carrying out his life’s work.
Doing his father’s will was in his heart, and he found happiness in teaching others God’s kingdom message. (Acts 20:35)
If we were to focus our resources on selfish pursuits, we would probably eventually find them to be vain and unsatisfying. (Eccl. 2:11)
But if we guard our hearts from selfish desires and follow Christ’s example of selflessness, we will discover the happiness that only God can give, while successfully securing our future. (1 Ti. 6:18,19)
“Even if you offer me whole burnt offerings and gift offerings,
I will find no pleasure in them; […]
Let justice flow down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
~Amos 5:22, 24
We should not let our sacred service to God fall into a mechanical routine, as if we are doing him a favor through the sacrifices we offer him.
What God really looks for in us is heartfelt obedience. (Ps. 50:14)
False religion allows believers to continue on paths of cruelty and corruption, “absolving” sins through rites and rituals without ever addressing the root of problems. (Amos 2:6,7; 5:12)
Acceptable service to God is motivated by love of what is good.
We should try to reflect his sense of justice. (Amos 5:14,15)
“[…] In order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, something that I had not commanded and that had never even come into my heart.”
The people of Judah’s sinful inclination to worship idols had led them to the point of burning their own children in altars to false gods.
Jehovah God makes it very clear that their form of worship had nothing to do with him.
He had sent them prophets warning them of their evil ways but his People had stubbornly ignored him. (Jer. 7:13,26)
The disheartened practices of parents in those days may be somewhat shocking by today’s standards, but there are people who still teach that hellfire is a Divine punishment for wrongdoers.
Jehovah says the practice of burning people has ‘never even come into his heart.’
Although Jesus did refer to the “fiery Gehenna,” historically this was a valley of refuse where dead bodies unworthy of graves were thrown out and cremated. (Matt. 5:22; 10:28; Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1)
Jesus was not referring to a place of torment, but a place of utter destruction.
By comparing God’s principles with ancient practices, most conscientious Bible students can conclude that the teaching of torment by hellfire is false. (1 John 4:8)
“I will do for you everything that you say, for everyone in the city knows that you are an excellent woman. While it is true that I am a repurchaser, there is a repurchaser more closely related than I am. Stay here tonight, and if he will repurchase you in the morning, fine! Let him repurchase you. But if he does not want to repurchase you, I will then repurchase you myself, as surely as Jehovah lives.”
By the time the widowed Ruth approached her benefactor, Boaz to request he perform brother-in-law marriage with her, it is obvious he had already given the matter significant thought.
Through his reply, one can infer that he had taken enough notice of Ruth to ask others about her personality and reputation, and he had also taken into account her personal circumstances (Ruth 3:17).
He did not, however, rush into a relationship with Ruth, since he recognized that there was another man who legally had first choice regarding marrying Ruth and acquiring her first husband’s inheritance (Ruth 4:3-6).
Boaz, despite his power and feelings, did not overstep this law.
He took into account God’s instructions regarding the marital arrangement, setting a fine example for us, demonstrating that true love is based on principles.