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Respectfully Busy

Timothy was a talented, committed young man. He showed great promise in the area of being a pastor so the apostle Paul invested time, energy and personal capital to help him succeed. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul reminds his protégé that being busy is a good thing.
His advice is based on two universal principles. The first is that people deserve to be treated with respect. The second is that your life works best when you take personal responsibility for yourself and those you love. Paul broke down the relationships of Timothy’s life into natural family categories (v. 1-2) Older men are to be treated as if they are our fathers. Younger men are to be treated as if they are our brothers. Older women are to be treated as if they are our mothers. Younger women are to be treated as if they are our sisters. The common denominator in all these cases is respect. I am not naïve about the world we live in so I know there is a lot of chaos in families. Parents and siblings mistreat the ones they love the most on a regular basis. As a result, most of us have some recovery work to do so that we live constructive lives rather than repeat the chaos of our pasts. It doesn’t change the fact that it is normal to treat our family members with respect.
I am celebrating my mom’s 82nd birthday this weekend because it is the respectful thing to do. I have to travel to see them so it will make my weekend busier than it would normally be but it is the right thing to do. While I am there, I will visit with my older sister who lives in Boston. The celebration will likewise make her life busier than it would normally be but there is no hesitation on our parts because we want to show our parents the respect they deserve.
Paul then ventures into the priority of personal responsibility. The context for the discussion is widows who are associated with the church. In their day, it was difficult, and sometimes impossible, for a widow to produce an income. In compassion, the church developed a habit of looking after the needs of this precious group of individuals. The “program” only worked right when everyone involved took personal responsibility. If the woman had kids or grandkids, they were challenged to take care of her first (v. 4). Paul does not just present this as an option because he sees it as a social and spiritual obligation. “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (v. 8 ) Paul knew that family is the best place to take care of family and when the family breaks down, the church and society absorb an unsustainable burden.
Paul then turns his attention to the widows themselves. He, first of all, challenges them to decide if they want to be widows. In order to be supported by the church they had to commit to put “her hope in God and continue night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” (v. 6) There is also an implication that she will remain single the rest of her life and serve the church community. (v. 6, 10) Should she decide to let the church take care of her personal needs, she will in turn, demonstrate her dedication by “showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” (v. 10). If she is not willing to adopt this kind of lifestyle, she ought to pursue getting married again.
The point of all this is that showing respect to others and adopting a conviction of personal responsibility means I will be appropriately busy for the rest of my life. There is a lot of discussion today of being too busy. I don’t know about you but I like being busy. I just like being busy with things that have purpose rather than frantically trying to find fulfillment in trivial pursuits.