6 April 2018

Good morning and welcome to Friday, a most excellent day!

REFLECTION:

I’ve been reading a book recently, “The Art of Neighbouring” – it’s rather good. The introduction tells the story of a meeting between a council leader and a bunch of church leaders… The question that the church leaders were there to ask was, “How can we help?” As Churches in the city they wanted to know how they could best support the city to grow and thrive. The answer they received was a surprise and a real challenge to them. The council leader said something to the effect of: “Well most of the problems that get referred to the council would be removed if there was a strong sense of community across our city. A lot of problems get referred to us and take up a huge amount of time and resources that wouldn’t come to us if people were good neighbours, only those that really needed our help would get referred.

When the council leader left the church leaders looked at one another, “has someone without faith just encouraged us to love our neighbours?” It began a coordinated effort through the churches of the city to promote good neighbouring: they put their effort into building community on the streets where God had placed them. I’m reminded of this story as I read today’s passage from 1 Tim 5:9-16, especially v15-16.

If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

In Acts chapter 6 we read of the expansion of the church and a growing need to look after the widows in the community. Seven godly men were appointed to oversee distribution of food to ensure that everyone was treated fairly, especially the widows.

It is a great moment in the life of the church when we see the people begin to organise themselves and plan ahead to ensure efficiency and fairness. However, there is a hidden danger with organisation. When we organise it can slowly erode our sense of responsibility. Problems, which would have once been my problems, can easily become other people’s problems: the church should be doing more, the council really need to get on to this, the government have failed to deal with this situation… someone else is to blame because it’s their responsibility not my responsibility!

Paul says no! Our first responsibility is to those around us, those who we see in need are our responsibility.

However, Paul recognises that the problem when caring for others does not stop with those who provide the care.

He is equally concerned that the care provided does not disempower those receiving it. It is very easy to become dependent on others’ care for us. It is a fine line between caring too much and caring too little, providing too much support for too long and not enough support for too little time. What we must be careful to do is to ensure that people take responsibility for their own lives. It is too easy in our desire to care to begin to take responsibility that is not ours to take.

If someone has fallen down and broken a leg, we would want to come alongside and help them. In the early stages after the fall we might place their arm around our necks and support their weight. If we continue to take their weight as their leg begins to heal their leg will never heal properly. The muscles will become weak and they will no longer be able to bear their full weight. Our eagerness to help make life easy has become something disabling…

Caring for others, raising children and teaching / training others, we must be careful to ensure that at the right moment those we want to see enabled are allowed to bear the full weight of responsibility for their own lives, for their own provision, for their own healing, for their own walk with God. As much as we want to help, we have to know when to get out of the way.

Paul writes, do not provide for those who can take care of themselves. If they are young… tell them to get on with living – taking responsibility for their own lives, don’t be a burden, don’t become idle.

Who is responsible for my life and well-being? Who is responsible for my family’s lives and well-being? Who is responsible for those who I love and care for? Ultimately it’s God… but even God allows us to bear responsibility for our own lives and never takes control.

PRAYER:

Father, thank you for the privilege of bearing one another’s burdens. But we also thank you for the reminder in the Bible that everyone should carry their own load. Help us to know when to lend a hand and support and when to be firm and bring a challenge to prevent others becoming dependent and relinquishing their responsibility for their own lives. Help us to help others Lord. In Jesus name. Amen.

READING: 1 Timothy 5:9-16

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.