1 Timothy 5:1-16                “Honor Where Honor Is Due”




Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest (1899) wrote: “Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying.” In the first few verses of our scripture today we hear Paul saying that younger people are to be respected, too. Younger men and women are to be treated as brothers and sisters—not as children, mind you, but as siblings.

We are all children of the living God! We all pray to the Father in heaven. That means that you are all my brothers and sisters. We are all the Ohana of God. This is a different group management structure than what Jesus himself employed with his group of followers. You surely recall that those that followed Jesus were not called “Ohana” but rather they were the Disciples and later the Apostles. A disciple is merely a fancy term for a student. So, the model that Jesus left us with was that of a classroom in which we are all students. So, I have to ask you to imagine now that we are not only like a classroom with students of the Lord, but that in that classroom we are all brothers and sisters, too. This would be like that schoolhouse in the series “Little House on the Prairie” where all the students are all pretty much from the same family! 

Now I know that this can be a little confusing indeed. In this case here in the church, my wife is also my sister! Yes, She is the woman I married, but she is also my sister in Christ. My daughter, who read the scripture, is also my sister in terms of the structure of the Ohana of Christ that is the church. Indeed, I have to respect them as such.


Having said all that, I must also now point out that Paul in writing to Timothy adds this tag: “In all purity!” The word for “purity” in the Greek is “agnes.” So, not only are we all students in the same school following the same master, but we are all of the same family, and we are called by the same name “Agnes.” We are all supposed to be pure in our relationships, so both men and women are “Agnes.” Of course, I am joking! Don’t call me Agnes after worship!

I just need to jump up to Hebrews 12:14-15 for a moment when I say that everyone is “Agnes,” that is pure of heart. “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.”

So, or purity is not something that we can achieve on our own, but it comes to us through the grace of God. It is the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross that relieves us of our sins and makes us pure. There is absolutely nothing we could ever do to wash away the sin that is within us on our own. It is but by the grace of God that we are made pure.

All we have to do then is make sure that we are not defiled after having received the grace of God through accepting Jesus as Lord over our lives. This is the hardest thing for sure of being a Christian in our world today.

It is not very often that we read the first Psalm in the Book of Psalms here in church. But, it is the first thing that King David in his writings left for the people of Israel and so it should bear some weight still! Psalm 1, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers. But, their delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. . . .” If you want to be happy in your life, heed these words!


In verse 3 of today’s passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy, we see a command to do what? “HONOR.” Make note that this is the name “Timothy” as well. The name literally means “Honor God.” Paul is having a little bit of fun with Timothy in that he is commanding him to be Timothy! To be the one that honors.

The following verses paint a picture of a serious issue in the early church of Ephesus. The issue seems to be one of welfare fraud. You see, widows and orphans are to be cared for in the church; yet it seems that some women have been coming to Timothy as widows who perhaps were not “real” widows. The Greek text infers that they should not be “counted” as widows. So, the advice given to Timothy is to honor those who are truly to be counted as widows when they come to the church for assistance.

Note that there is even the discussion of a list that has been made of those who are to be counted as widows. To get your name on the list, one must first be over sixty years old. That is in itself to be noted that in that day not a lot of women would have lived that long. The list really cannot be that long then.

Other qualifications to be counted to be on the list include that there be really no other family members who can support the widow. There could be siblings or children who have a religious duty, according to the Fifth Commandment to “honor your mother and father,” to provide for the widow in question.

Another qualification is that she must be attested to having done good works in the past. See verse 10. She must have raised good children. She must have shown hospitality. She must have washed the saints’ feet—an idiom of the day to say that she must have been engaged in the support of the ministry. In other words, a real widow must be a saint herself almost to get on the list!  Or another way to look at this is that she is an honorable woman in need! Or that we should honor the truly needy! If we see a sister or brother in Christ truly in need, then we are to honor that person and help him or her. The church assumes that familial responsibility.


Paul goes onto to state how someone in the church is dishonored. Remember, the whole argument that he is making is about honor. It is his command to Timothy to honor those in real need. Those who are of honor and have legitimate needs should be well cared for. Yet, those who are dishonored become so in this fashion: Gossip. Read verse 13. They go about from house to house in their idleness saying things that they should not say.

Now gossip is not considered one of the Seven Deadly sins. It is not listed as a “thou shalt not” in the Ten Commandments—unless you see the 9th commandment about bearing false witness as a reference to gossip. It really is not. Yet, in the Bible one finds many references to the evil of gossip. Most of these are in the Book of Proverbs by the way. You can go read up as homework.

In the case of Timothy in the early church in Ephesus it would be the case that what people were saying might have been absolutely true. Remember that Saint Paul did in essence start a riot in Ephesus. Again you can read about this in Acts 19 as homework. Surely there must have been so juicy gossip spreading around Ephesus about Saint Paul and how he had to sneak out of town in disgrace. One would not have to make up lies about Saint Paul to show him in a bad light. Gossip is not necessarily untrue. It is just not helpful. It is saying things that are of no use to the building up of the Kingdom of God. If you go around from house to house to share the Gospel of Jesus, then blessings be upon you, but if you are going from house to house to share only gossip, then you have lost all honor in the church.

Let the church family not be burdened with this useless talk. Give honor where honor is due. Keep your speech faithfully focused on the Good News and to the building up of the family. 

I just want to say in closing that I have found that gossip is good for one thing only. It is good for learning tonal languages. You see, in tonal languages there is what is known as the “falling tone.” When we gossip in English, we put the falling tone over the first pronoun in the sentence. This is a strange way to teach how to make this tone in Chinese, Thai, or whatever tonal language. Listen, “Well, I (with falling tone) heard that Saint Paul started an absolute riot in our town not to long ago!” That first “I” with a falling tone is what you need to hear to know that it is gossip that follows, too. When you hear that falling tone in English, you know it is only gossip and should be shut down. Just keep that tonal reference in your ear and listen for it in an Asian language! That is the only thing gossip is good for!


We are called to honor one another in purity and familial love. Happy Valentines Day! Amen.