But if a widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to show godliness to their own family and repay their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
I. AVOID MISTAKES IN CHILD TRAINING AND TEACHING. I am one of those who think that it is a monstrous mistake to fill their hymns with rich rhapsodies about heaven, about wanting to be angels, and about superior emotions, when the very things next to them are seldom referred to at all. To the father the son must always be a boy, and the daughter to the mother a girl; so that all manner, even which is high-flown and independent, or brusque and irreverent, is painful, and brings tears to the hearts of parents.
II. REMEMBER THE RELIGIOUSNESS OF HOME-LIFE. "Piety at home," by which is not meant precocity of religious opinion, or plentifulness of religious phraseology, but the piety of respect, attention, obedience, requital, and reverence. This is "good and acceptable before God." - W.M.S.
But if any widow have children or nephews.
I. THAT HOME RESPONSIBILITIES ARE TO BE ACCEPTED AS THE APPOINTMENT OF GOD. The sacredness of family relationship is constantly insisted upon both in the Old Testament and the New. All transgressions against it were severely punished under the Mosaic economy, and were condemned still more solemnly by our Lord. A word of exposition on the first clause in the fourth verse is desirable, "If any widows have children or nephews, let them (i.e., not the widows, but the children or nephews) learn first to show piety (filial love) at home." The word "nephews" is used by our translators in its old English sense, and is rendered in the Revised Version by its nearest modern equivalent, "grand children," for in the writings of Chaucer, Sir Thomas More, and John Locke, "nephews" is used to denote grandchildren. And similarly, when it is said they are to requite their "parents," more is included than fathers or mothers, for the apostle's word is equivalent to the Scotch "forbears," for which the English language has no exact synonym. The idea is that we owe a debt of gratitude to those from whom we have derived existence, and to whom we owe the support, care, and education we have received. We are bound to see that to the utmost of our ability their wants in old age are met.
II. THAT AMONG OUR GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBILITIES IS THE DUTY OF LABOURING FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE WEAK. Among the blessings of our human relationships is this: that honest work is necessitated. We have seen instances in which a young fellow who has spent all his salary on cigars, dress, and amusements, has after his marriage buckled to work, and displayed an energy and ability for which none had given him credit before. Many a brave young wife and self-sacrificing mother has been ennobled through her home duties, having completely abandoned the foolish and trivial pursuits to which she was once addicted. And what numberless instances there are of men, whose diligence and self-abnegation are beyond praise, who have become what they are by first feeling the responsibility of caring and working for a widowed mother!
III. Paul emphatically declares that THOSE WHO FAIL IN THESE RESPONSIBILITIES HAVE DENIED THE FAITH AND ARE WORSE THAN INFIDELS. Stern as the words are, they are true! Even the heathen, certainly the better class of them, were wont to acknowledge filial duties, and would have condemned cynical disregard of parents and refusal to fulfil natural duties towards them. This is an offence against humanity, and therefore, in the deepest sense, an offence against Christ. But a Christian professes to have higher motives in duty than others. Let us never for get that the test of character is to be found in family relationships rather than in those which are ecclesiastical; and that it is in the home first and chiefest of all that Christ's disciples are to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Piety at home
1. My first counsel to you is, have Jesus in your new home, if it is a new home; and let Him who was a guest at Bethany be in your new household; let the Divine blessing drop upon your every hope, and plan, and expectation. Those young people who begin with God end with heaven.
2. My second advice to you in your home is, to exercise to the very last possibility of your nature the law of forbearance. Prayers in the household will not make up for everything. Some of the best people in the world are the hardest to get along with. Sometimes it will be the duty of the husband and sometimes of the wife to yield; but both stand punctiliously on your rights, and you will have a Waterloo with no Blucher coming up at nightfall to decide the conflict. The best thing I ever heard of my grandfather, whom I never saw, was this: that once, having unrighteously rebuked one of his children, he himself — having lost his patience, and, perhaps, having been misinformed of the child's doings — found out his mistake, and in the evening of the same day gathered all his family together, and said: "Now, I have one explanation to make, and one thing to say. Thomas, this morning I rebuked you very unfairly. I am very sorry for it. I rebuked you in the presence of the whole family, and now I ask your forgiveness in their presence." It must have taken some courage to do that.
3. I advise, also, that you make your chief pleasure circle around about that home. It is unfortunate when it is otherwise. If the husband spend the most of his nights away from home, of choice and not of necessity, he is not the head of the household; he is only the cashier. If the wife throw the cares of the household into the servant's lap, and then spend five nights of the week at the opera or theatre, she may clothe her children with satins, and laces, and ribbons that would confound a French milliner, but they are orphans.
4. I advise you also to cultivate sympathy of occupation. Sir James McIntosh, one of the most eminent and elegant men that ever lived, while standing at the very height of his eminence, said. to a great company of scholars: "My wife made me." The wife ought to be the advising partner in every firm. She ought to be interested in all the losses and gains of shop and store. She ought to have a right — she has a right — to know everything. Your gains are one, your interests are one, your losses are one; lay hold of the work of life with both hands. Four hands to fight the battles. Four eyes to watch for the danger. Four shoulders on which to carry the trials. It is a very sad thing when the painter has a wife who does not like pictures. It is a very sad thing for a pianist when she has a husband who does not like music.
5. I have one more word of advice to give to those who would have a happy home, and that is: let love preside in it.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. The home, in the first place, is the most POWERFUL TEST OF ONE'S CHARACTER. A man's disposition in public may be in gay costume, while in private it is in deshabille. The play actor does differently on the platform from the way he does behind the scenes; and public life is often a very different thing from private life. A man will receive you in his parlour with so much gracefulness that he seems to be the distillation of smiles, while in his heart there is a swamp of nettles. Private life is often public life turned wrong side out. The lips that drop with myrrh and cassia — the disposition that seems to be warm and bright as a sheaf of sunbeams, may only be a magnificent show-window to a wretched stock of goods. The harp that all day sang like an angel, may at night grate like a saw. There are those who are philanthropists in public life, who in home life are the Nero with respect to their slippers and their gown. The great Newton, after he had spent half of his life on one manuscript, came into his study one day and found that his dog had torn the manuscript to pieces. All he said was: "Little Diamond, you know not how much trouble you have given your master." Audubon, the great ornithologist, with gun and pencil, went all through the forests of this country for the purpose of bringing down and sketching the birds of the land; then went home, put the valuable documents in a trunk, and, after an absence, found that the rats had completely devoured the manuscripts, so that again he took gun and pencil, and again went through the forests of the land, reproducing that which was destroyed; while there are many in private life who, at the loss of a pencil or an article of clothing, will act as though they had met with a severe and irreparable loss, and will blow sharp, and loud, and long as a north-east storm. Let us learn to show piety at home.
II. Again: I remark that HOME IS A REFUGE. The home is the tent we pitch to rest in, our bayonets stacked, our war caps hung up, our heads resting on the knapsack until the morning bugle sounds, warning us to strike tent and prepare for marching and action. Oh, what a pleasant place it is to talk over the day's victories, and surprises, and attacks, seated by the still camp-fires of the domestic circle. Life is a stormy sea. With shivered mast, and torn sail, and hulk aleak, we put into the harbour of home. Into this dry-dock we come for repair. Blessed harbour! The candle in the window is to the labouring man the lighthouse guiding him into port. May God pity the poor miserable wretch who has not any home.
III. Again: I remark that the home is a POLITICAL SAFEGUARD. The safety of the State depends upon the character of the home. The Christian hearthstone is the only foundation for a Republic. In the family virtues are cultured which are a necessity for the State; and if there be not enough moral principle to make the family adhere, there cannot be enough political principle to make the State adhere. No home, no free institution. No home makes a nation of Goths and Vandals; makes the Nomads of Central Asia; makes the Numidians of Africa, changing from month to month, and from place to place, as the pasture happens to change.
IV. I go further, and speak of HOME AS A SCHOOL. Old ground must be upturned by a subsoil plough, and harrowed and re-harrowed, and then it will not yield as good a crop as new ground with less culture. Now, infancy and childhood are new ground, and all that is scattered over that ground will yield luxuriantly. Make your home the brightest place on earth if you would charm your children into the high path of rectitude and religion. Do not always have the blinds turned the wrong way. Let God's light, that puts gold on the gentian and spots the pansy, stream into your windows. Do not expect your children to keep step to a dead march. A dark home makes bad boys and bad girls to be bad men and bad women. Above all, take into your homes thorough Christian principle.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)I. OUR FIRST ENDEAVOUR WILL BE TO SHOW WHAT PIETY IS. This is all the more needful, as mistakes, numerous and fatal, exist on this vital subject, not only in the world, but also in the Church. It is "the mind that was in Christ, leading us to walk as He also walked."
1. Piety has its principles. It is not like a tree without a root; or a stream without a spring. It is originated, sustained, and cherished by an experimental acquaintance with God in Christ; for "this is life eternal, to know Thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." Here, then, we have the principles of piety — knowledge, faith, love, submission, and holy fear. A cluster of good things; the soul and spirit of true religion; the gift of the Divine hand; the fruit of the Spirit; the purchase of Messiah's blood; and the earnest of everlasting life.
2. Piety has its enjoyments. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her." The forgiveness of sins, access to God as a Father, the communion of Saints, the hope of everlasting life, the possession of a new nature, constitute a well-spring of blessedness to the humble, believing, obedient soul.
3. Piety has its duties. "If ye love Me, said the Saviour, keep My commandments; not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." With what frequency and earnestness has practical piety been enforced in the law and the prophets, as also by our Lord and His apostles!
II. WE PROCEED TO SHOW WHERE PIETY IS TO BE MADE MANIFEST. If the principles and rootlets of piety be out of sight, their existence and power may easily be made apparent. Vegetable life in this sweet jessamine, or in yonder blushing rose, is far beyond our ken; but the effects of life are plain enough to be seen — the rind, the bud, the leaf, the flower, tell us that life is there. As to animal life — the sparkling eye, the ruddy countenance, the cheerful voice, the active limb, show us that life is there; but it is as much a mystery as ever; as far out of sight as ever. Steam, as it lies in the bosom of the boiler, is invisible; but the stroke of the piston, the sweep of the u heel, and the speed of the train, as well as the condensing power of the atmosphere, tell us that it is there. So of piety: much of it is hidden from the public gaze — its depths are not seen. Christian life is hid with Christ in God. Yet if spiritual life exists, it will give proof of its existence and power. Hence at Antioch, when Barnabas "had seen the grace of God, he was glad." And exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Fire must burn, a fountain must flow, a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit — Therefore show piety.
1. In general, wherever the providence of God may place you. The shop, the ship, the market, the farm, the factory, the counting-house, will afford you opportunities for confessing your Lord.
2. In particular, let your piety appear at home. Show to those around you, that the fear and love of God control your desires, purposes, words, and deeds; whatever your relation to the family circle — in whatever department your duty lies, act your part with cheerfulness, fidelity, and to the extent of your ability. See, that your piety is such as never can be reasonably questioned.(1) Shows its reality; let "the root of the matter" spring up and bring forth good fruit.(2) Maintain its spirit, humble, gentle, kind, forgiving: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."(3) Manifest its power, to restrain you from evil, to sustain and comfort and bless you, amid the ills of life; and to enable you by a patient continuance in well-doing, to seek for glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life. Mind that your piety be uniform; let no child be forgotten, no aged parent neglected, no poor widowed relative forsaken, no duty omitted. One word more: let your home religion be steady and growing; and as a general rule, rather seen, and felt, than heard.
3. The considerations by which this important duty may be enforced are numerous and weighty. Would to God we could rightly see and feel them. God, our Saviour, has made Christian believers "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light." And shall they not do His pleasure? Shall not Christian people acknowledge their Owner — and the claims of Him who hath made, redeemed, and saved them — by giving up themselves to His service, by glorifying Him, both at home and abroad, in their body and spirit, which are His? Besides, as members of the family circle, are we not bound to promote its comfort, safety, and welfare to the extent of our ability? If you feel any interest in the prosperity of the Church, the conversion of poor sinners, the general good of society, show piety at home. Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Tread in the steps of faithful Abraham, the pattern of believers, and the friend of God, who commanded his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord. Drink into the spirit of Joshua, who served the Lord himself, and put forth all his strength to lead his family to do likewise.
(J. J. Topham.)
1. A careful respect for the rights of each member of the family. It is our first duty to be just towards each other, and a duty which is obligatory all round, as between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families and their relatives, employers and servants. It is not always easy to be just. It requires thoughtful consideration and some power of imaginative sympathy even on the part of those who desire to do as they would be done by. A great deal of the wrong that is suffered in the world arises out of unwitting injustice. Some persons are grossly and habitually unjust to those about them, misrepresenting their opinions, and imposing upon them sacrifices of feeling and trouble, while in other respects they are singularly generous. Another frequent cause of unhappiness in families is the partiality shown to a favourite child. This also justice forbids.
2. Next to careful respect for the rights of others I may mention great forbearance in asserting our own. A small thing in family life, but most significant as an index to character, is the self-pleasing with which some persons secure their own preferences at table. Even if they make a show of giving up what others like, they do it so ostentatiously that their generosity is generally declined. But real self-denial, that can find pleasure in the gratification of others, will conceal its preferences so that they may enjoy what they like without knowing that it is at the expense of any one else.
3. A third characteristic of home piety is the endeavour to please those about us for their good. A cheerful manner, a flow of wise and genial conversation, sparkling here and there with some bright coruscation of wit, flavoured always with the salt of cultured taste, and sometimes suggestive of serious thoughts, is a fine means of pleasing and benefiting others. Show piety at home by learning to talk well and wisely.
4. Lastly, piety should be shown at home in a devout regard for the honour of God. At the principal meals of the day, and morning or evening, if not both morning and evening, reverence should find suitable expression in acts of worship. You must be guided by your own sense of fitness as to what arrangements you shall make for this purpose. Let us systematically choose the good part, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, endeavour to catch the spirit of our Master, and let its influence be diffused throughout our whole life.
(E. W. Shalders, B. A.)
I. HOME IS THE PLACE WHERE CHARACTER IS MOST TESTED; AND IF PIETY BE NOT SHOWN THERE, IT CANNOT BE SHOWN ANYWHERE. Our real character is not so much shown in what we do intentionally and with a purpose, as in what we do impulsively and without reflection. Abroad in the world men may wear a cloak — they may deceive others, they may deceive themselves as to their true character; but at home the cloak generally slips aside, the true character comes out, and those who see them in their unguarded hours know them as they really are. Often a word, a look, or even a gesture in the family will give more insight into a man's heart than years of observation of his public life. The close intercourse of home life tries as well as reveals the real character. That which tries character also helps to form it. Home not only shows what we are, it helps to make us what we shall be for ever. The education which is deepest and most enduring is that of the home school.
II. HOME IS SOMETIMES THE SCENE OF OUR DEEPEST SORROWS: AND PIETY IS THE BEST HELP TO ENABLE US TO BEAR THESE. The causes which disturb the happiness of home are manifold. Unwise marriage unions are the cause of much family misery. Bad habits are a frequent occasion of home sorrow, Evil tempers sometimes ruin the happiness of home. A practical carrying out of our text would speedily correct the evils to which we have referred, and change the character of the home-life where they have been endured. Were all the members of a family to "learn to show piety at home," what a scene of blessedness that would be! But there are other trials which sometimes convert the home into a "house of mourning," and which piety alone can enable us to meet. There are homes in which the pinching of poverty has to be endured. There are homes where disease presses with his heavy hand; and homes over which death spreads his black and chilly wing. But if there be only one pious member of the family, how the others will look to him and lean upon him in their hour of bereavement and sorrow! The influence acquired by consistency of character now operates for the good of his afflicted friends.
III. HOME OUGHT TO BE THE SCENE OF OUR HIGHEST JOY; AND PIETY IS THE ONLY MEANS TO MAKE IT SO, The mutual love and confidence so essential to family happiness, can be produced and secured by nothing so certainly as by a common affection for the Saviour. How blessed are the ties of nature when they are sanctified and strengthened by grace!
(G. D. Macgregor.)
(J. B. Gough.)
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