An Odd Command of Paul At Odds With the Law -- No Help for Widows under 60!
In 1 Timothy 5:9-12 (KJV) we read:
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.
Paul thus said that a widow under sixty should not receive charity. (1 Tim. 5:9, 11-13.) No command in the Torah spoke like this. The "poor tithe" of Israel (every 3d year) simply went to widows and orphans. (Some portion was also given strangers and Levites.) To repeat, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:19-20
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is OVER SIXTY.
Paul's Rationale to Deny Charity to Widows under 60
Before we ask whether Paul's command is Biblical, let's ask whether Paul's rationale is at all sensible. Why does Paul say we must "refuse" the "younger" widows (i.e., those under 60)? Because somehow charity will cause them to become "wanton against Christ," and then they will "desire to marry." Is that desire to marry truly a sin -- reflecting a wantonness against Christ?
And how bad is this sin? Paul says she brings "condemnation" on herself, for this "desire to marry" arising from "wantonness againt Christ," Paul equates with "cast[ing] off their first faith." Really? A poor young widow who has lost her husband and wants a new one is wanton thereby against Christ, and has thrown off her first faith toward Christ? My goodness!
Putting aside the outrageousness of Paul's rationale, let's solely focus upon Paul's command to not support by charity a widow under 60. Let's do a Bearean test whether Paul's command is Biblical. We will ignore the outrageous rationale Paul offered. However, it is wise to keep in mind that rationale to explain why Paul's views are so unbiblical. (For more verses in Paul that depricate marriage as a sin against Christ by single men or women, see our article, Paul, Women & Sex.)
Paul's Command To Deny Charity to Widows Under 60 Is Unbiblical
In an article entitled "Is it OK for Christians to deny Charity for Widows under 60?" the answer is brutal on what the author identifies as Paul's insensitive generalization on this class of women. He regards it as an immoral command from Paul. The author states the irony that Paul elsewhere took the blame for having killed many of their husbands:
Denying charity to young widows under 60, including those widows that he must have left behind BECAUSE Christian widows get promiscuous and want to get marry again, they also get idle, busybodies and gossips...Please check the full context in your Bibles!
Please read the Bible. Paul states that young widows ARE, again ARE promiscuous, busybodies, gossips, idles and so on (all of them?) .... There is no consideration for widows that a former persecuter to death of the followers of Jesus left behind! No mention of the orphans, either.
Does Paul by any stretch of the imagination sound like he speaks for Yahweh? Paul's principles are indeed immoral. How could these words be from Yahweh?
God gives us the answer. The Torah curses anyone who holds back what is owed to widows (for example, Deuteronomy 27:19; see also Exodus 22:22-24).
“'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.' "And all the people shall say, 'Amen!'” (Deut. 27:19.)
Every third year the tithe went to feed/support the widows, orphans, sojourners (poor Gentiles), and Levites (proportionately, it is always assumed). This is spoken about in Deut. 26: 12-13:
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.”
As James says,
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).
Giving a widow nothing because she is under 60 is to hold back what is owed. God tells us what this means for Paul's fate.
What is heartbreaking is to see Paulinists delude themselves that Paul cannot mean what he clearly says. They reason that Paul would have to know his words violate God's Law and thus Paul must have meant something else other than what he says. Frank Bellizzi writes in "Did Paul Say Don't Help Widows under 60?":
It’s inconceivable that Paul, a Christian rabbi, could have issued instructions to the contrary [of God's Law]. A self-described “Hebrew of Hebrews,” Paul knew that the Jewish Scriptures spoke up for “the orphan, the widow, and the stranger in your midst” more than 50 times; and he likely knew a tradition that says the more often a teaching is repeated, the more important it is. No right-thinking person believes that a young, godly, but destitute widow suddenly becomes worthy of the church’s support upon turning sixty years old.
But even though Bellizzi says he cannot bring himself to believe Paul said this at odds with God's Law, and proposes all kinds of exceptions or permutations of what Paul could have meant instead, Bellizzi is simply ignoring the truth. Paul clearly said not to help a widow under 60, regardless of circumstances. And the fact this violates God's Law is no deterrent from reading Paul to urge a violation of God's Law. For Paul repeatedly said God's Law given Moses (whose Paul's words violate) was a shadow and has faded away. So Bellizzi's rationale for seeking other means of escape from the literal reading disappears once we face the truth that Paul had no concern about teaching contrary to God's Law. Paul said repeatedly it was defunct and done away with.
Other Paulinists are rather blunt and have no trouble reading Paul by his clear words. In "New Testament Giving -- Widow Support," they read what Paul says plainly and without any equivocation. In fact, they teach we must deny widows under 60 any help -- ignoring the Torah / Law speaks at odds with Paul. This article says based on 1 Tim 5:9-16 as follows:
Not all widows were to be in this number [for receipt of assistance] but only the old ones, 60 years old and above, and under certain additional conditions.
Another commentary -- by Pastor Steve Cole of the Flagstaff Christian Fellowship -- agrees, reading Paul plainly and without faulting him for violating Torah in this teaching:
A 'widow indeed' is a godly woman over 60...Younger widows should not be supported.... (Cole, Caring for Widows (1994) at 2, 5.
Some Pastors admit their charitable ministries today violate Paul's age restrictions, not taking Paul very seriously:
Nowadays, we do not maintain this sort of list, and we do not put age restrictions on which widows we will help. Our social and economic circumstances are quite different, and almost all church leaders and biblical scholars recognize this. Nevertheless, Paul gives several commands in this passage that we ignore—even commands can be limited to the culture they were given in. ("Paul's Policy on Women," Grace Communion International.)
So when Paul utters immoral commands at odds with Torah, Paulinists often solve the problem by simply acknowledging they don't follow Paul on that point. So doesn't that pique their conscience that Paul is not inspired? And that an undue weight is given Paul's doctrines at odd with those of the Master appointed by Yahweh to serve as our King?
And what about Paul having a ridiculous rationale to not support younger widows because by means of charity they will become wanton against Christ, evidenced by wanting to remarry? Wouldn't that desire have been a good thing for a Christian woman, so they would not need charity any more from the church, but could count on a husband to help support her especially if she were raising children as a younger widow might?