3Honor widows who are widows indeed; 4but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.7Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach.8But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5: 3-8
We hear a lot about those who take care of both children and aging parents. They call us the “sandwich” generation. Some bear the responsibility well, dragging from one duty to the other without complaint, making huge sacrifices of time, sleep and resources, apparently getting no credit. Others rely on institutions and Uncle Sam.
This passage addresses the original concept of “social security,” reducing the church’s role to caring for godly widows 60 years and older who have been left all alone. Everyone else in need appears to be the direct responsibility of the family, not the federal government.
In “paying back” aged parents, we “practice piety,” or true religion. We may get no credit from the world for housing a parent, or taking charge of all their cares, from food to finances, but God finds this “acceptable” and pleasing.
Paul mentions both children and grandchildren chipping in. What better way to assure that this kind of care is passed from generation to generation, than to watch and assist a dad feeding his dad or mom, once proud and dignified, now pretty much helpless?
Finally, not to do this puts yourself on very shaky ground. Not only are you denying help to someone who likely sacrificed greatly for you, but you also, in reality, deny the God who allowed the ultimate sacrifice on your behalf.