1 Timothy 5:1-16 calls upon a church to honour and care for those who are most vulnerable.
In the first post of this series, we observed that the widow of 1 Tim 5 was akin to the ‘vulnerable’ today.
The second observation is this:
2. When it comes to caring for a person in need – everyone is different and everyone can play a part.
Maybe it is because we live in such an individual first world western culture that we expect specific and tailored care. What is helpful for one person is often not as helpful for the next and we tend to have an aversion to being ‘put in a box’ or ‘treated like a number’.
There is a very real truth behind our individuality that should not be ignored. God has created us in such a way that no two beings are alike. Be that, as it may, it is worth recognizing that there are commonalities – we see that in race, personality, culture, genetics, interests, circumstance and more.
When Paul gives his 1 Tim 5 advise, he does not shy away from highlighting commonalities in the circumstances of the widows in the church – in fact he uses those groupings as a way to intentionally organise the care that should be offered.
I think this is helpful to consider as a church (especially as a church in an individual first world western culture). When it comes to caring for those in most need, it can be helpful to organise ourselves so that we can care well for those who are in similar vulnerable circumstances – those who are unemployed, those who are suffering from physical or mental illnesses, those who are caring for high need dependents and so on.
But in saying that, each individual in that particular circumstance will have particular needs and will need to be cared for differently.
That is another benefit of the Church family – a group of people who hold to a common faith in Jesus Christ, yet bring a variety of differences to the table. As such, every member of a church family has something to offer when it comes to caring for another – the only question is whether each person takes that opportunity.
How do you care?
A few suggestions (as much to myself as to anyone):
a. Christians care following in the footsteps of our Lord. Jesus always treated people with dignity and respect (look through the gospels at the gracious way that Jesus engaged with the women and children and sick – in contrast, his harsh words were reserved for those who were in positions of power and authority). Care should not demean or look down upon those who are most vulnerable but instead increase their sense of dignity.
b. Listen. We have ears and so a key way to care is to be ready to listen. When most vulnerable it can feel like their is nowhere to turn. Yet we know that we have a Father in heaven who is always ready to listen (Matt 7:7-8). Christians, of all people, should be prepared to listen as listening is such a key element to what we do in faith – we listen to God’s voice. So be ready to listen to those who are calling out for help.
c. Point people to Christ. As we listen and as we hear the burdens, we come to understand the pains. Think about what we know of Christ and find ways to point people to him. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus famously said ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’. It is probable that his main concern here is for the spiritual burdens that the crowds may have felt since Jesus promises that those who do come to him are the ones who will ‘find rest for their souls’. There will always be physical burdens and, as Jesus did, they can be addressed to some degree but never completely – but the spiritual burden surpasses the physical and in the end will be realised in eternity. When we care for someone, we need to ensure that we are not only focusing on their physical burdens, but that we are pointing them to Christ as the one who carries their eternal burdens. How do you do that? Read just about anything from the Bible with them (maybe read something that you have recently read).
d. Pray. In our 1 Tim 5 passage, the widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and that is seen because she ‘continues night and day to pray and ask God for help’ (v5). Sounds like a good plan. If we have a way to ask the one who knows all, makes all, gives all, and governs all – then do so. Pray for God to help in times of need, both for ourselves and for those that we are trying to help.
e. Do something. You could argue that by this point we have already done something! Yes exactly. I make the point, because I suspect that for many when we try to care for someone who is vulnerable we jump straight to this point and look for a tangible way to fix or address a need. That is wonderful, but please recognize that alongside all the material and practical things that we can and should do, it will also be very helpful to pray, point people to Christ, listen and be Christlike. Caring for someone in need is not only about the presenting immediate issue.
Friends, we can be thankful that among our church family there are many who use their various different skills, in a variety of ways, to care for the many individuals we have in our church family including those who are most vulnerable. Everyone is different, yet under God, everyone can play a part. Thanks for making the most of that family opportunity as you serve our Lord and Saviour.
Heads-up – Some among our Church family are currently thinking about ways that we can intentionally care further for those who are most vulnerable among us. Watch this space!
Next post – a good book that might help.