Put [your] religion into practice by caring for [your] own family. 1 Timothy 5:4
The two women occupied the aisle seats across from each other. The flight was two hours, so I couldn’t help but see some of their interactions. It was clear they knew each other, might even be related. The younger of the two (probably in her sixties) kept reaching in her bag to hand the older (I’d guess in her nineties) fresh apple slices, then homemade finger sandwiches, then a towelette for clean up, and finally a crisp copy of the New York Times. Each hand-off was done with such tenderness, such dignity. As we stood to exit the plane, I told the younger woman, “I noticed the way you cared for her. It was beautiful.” She replied, “She’s my best friend. She’s my mother.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all say something like that? Some parents are like best friends. Some parents are nothing like that. The truth is those relationships are always complicated at best. While Paul’s letter to Timothy doesn’t ignore that complexity, it still calls us to put our “religion into practice” by taking care of parents and grandparents—our “relatives,” our “own household” (1 Timothy 5:4, 8).
We all too often practice such care only if family members were or are good to us. In other words, if they deserve it. But Paul offers up a more beautiful reason to repay them. Take care of them because “this is pleasing to God” (v. 4).
If your parents are still living, how would you describe your relationship with them? Regardless of what kind of job they did as parents, what are some ways you can take care of them right now?
Father, give me grace and mercy as I seek to care for those who cared for me. And help me to remember the reason I’m doing it.
Some cultures give appropriate honor to the elderly; other cultures seem to despise old age. God cares deeply about the marginalized, and the concept of respect for the aged was written into ancient Jewish law. Leviticus 19, which repeats the Ten Commandments including the one to honor parents (v. 3), also says, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” (v. 32). Paul upholds this notion of respect for the elderly in his letter to Timothy in two different yet related ways: Timothy was to show utmost respect for an “older man” he may need to correct (this was due to Timothy’s leadership position, see 1 Timothy 5:1), and he was to see that the church cared for widows in genuine need—those without family to provide for them (vv. 3–8). Children and grandchildren of widows were to show respect for their elders by caring for them.