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The Woman Christ Honors

Tom Pennington 1 Timothy 5:9-10


A couple of weeks ago, someone in our church family reminded me about a television program that I watched many years ago. It was in a series that was at times thought provoking, a series called The Twilight Zone. This particular one, the entire program was shot inside one hospital room. The focus was on a woman who had just had surgery, and she had just had surgery to correct some grotesque and even frightening deformities to her face. Her face in the program was completely bandaged from the surgery. And the doctor makes it clear to her as he speaks with her that this is the last surgery that is possible, that if this particular surgery has not been successful, there is absolutely nothing else that can be done for her. Of course, the drama built to the moment when the doctor removed the bandages to see if the surgery had helped at all. The room was filled with other staff. And at first, when the bandage was fully removed, you weren't allowed to see her face and to see the result, but you saw the response of the staff and the doctors. And as much as they tried to conceal their reaction, when the bandage was removed from this woman's face, they drew back in horror and shielded their eyes from the deformity that they beheld. The doctor, in solemn and somber tones, expressed his deep regret that the surgery had not been successful. And then finally, the camera moved to reveal her face, and it was an absolutely perfect, beautiful female face without a single flaw. A standard of beauty. And then you realize that throughout the entire program the woman's bandaged face had been the focal point, and the viewer had never actually seen the faces of the doctor and the nurses. And as soon as the flawless face of this woman was uncovered, the camera panned and let you see their faces. And as you would expect, all of them had terribly disfigured faces.

Obviously, the point of the program was that beauty, physical beauty is relative, that it conforms to the customs of the place and the others around you. That observation is not a fiction; in fact,

that is a historical fact. At various points in human history physical beauty has been variously defined. It's been on a kind of sliding scale that moves here and there. Today, for example, we have a standard of physical beauty that is an unhealthy degree of skinniness. But there was a time when that wasn't true. There was a time when plump was considered attractive and beautiful, because it was a sign of wealth, it was a sign that a woman had more than she needed to eat. Today in our culture, often, well-tanned is considered beautiful. But again, there was a time when the fairer the completion, the more beautiful you were considered, because it meant that you didn't have to work outside all day under the sun.

Every race and every people group has experienced this kind of moving-sliding scale of beauty defined in different ways physically. They're always changing. Tragically, the same thing happens in our world when it comes not only to the external physical appearance of a woman but to those inner qualities of a woman. The scale changes and reflects the culture around us. We live in a culture where the inner qualities that matter most to God are considered to be disfiguring deformities. Instead, many women who are the antithesis of God's standard are held up as being those who are admirable.

It was in December of last year, December of 2008, that the Gallup organization took a poll of Americans and asked them to give their most admirable woman. Who is it that you most admire? Here's the list from December in order of their responses. Number one on the list among Americans of the women they admire was Hilary Clinton. Number two, Sarah Palin. Number three, Oprah Winfrey. Number four, Condoleezza Rice. Number five, Michelle Obama. Number six, Margaret Thatcher. And seven and eight tied. Laura Bush tied with Angelina Jolie. Go figure. Number nine, Barbara Bush. And number ten was a tie between Madeline Albright and Ellen DeGeneres. Now, while there are certainly women in that list that are admirable for various reasons, what I want you to see is that we live in the twilight zone. We live in a world where God's standards have been utterly changed for other standards of inner beauty.

Today, often the kind of woman—not always. Again, there are women that are admired that have qualities that come much closer to what the Scripture describes. But often the kind of woman our society praises and honors is an aggressive, self-assertive, hard, career-minded woman, and perhaps (as a couple in this list are) even sexually immoral and terribly immodest. And all of that is exactly the opposite of the portrait of a godly woman that is given to us in Scripture. Ladies, I would encourage you to study those passages that detail the kind of woman that God admires, that God praises. Passages like Genesis 2, where He lays down the reason God created you. Passages like Proverbs 31, the virtuous woman there in Proverbs. First Timothy 2, where the things that are to be the outstanding qualities of a woman in the church are upheld. Titus 2, of course, a very familiar passage to you ladies. And 1 Peter 3. Those are all foundational passages for Christian womanhood.

But there's one passage that, I think, is often overlooked, and that passage is 1 Timothy 5. It's overlooked because of the context, and the context is caring for widows. Paul is basically telling his young son in the faith that the church is to take care of certain widows. The primary caregivers of those who no longer have husbands are to be their children and grandchildren. But if there are no relatives of any kind, then the church bears the responsibility, especially when it comes to a group Paul calls "widows indeed." He defines that in verse 5: "Now 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." So here's a woman who has no husband, no children and no relatives. And they are to be honored. Look back in verse 3: "Honor widows who are widows indeed."

The following verses show that this honor certainly includes respect but it also includes much more. It includes the active, financial support of such women. By the way, the word "honor" in the Greek text here in verse 3 is the same word used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) in Exodus 20 and again in Deuteronomy 5 in the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and mother." And the only other time Paul uses this word "honor" is in Ephesians 6:2 where he quotes the fifth commandment. Here, though, in 1 Timothy 5, it's obvious that these women are to be honored not only by their children but also by the church. So in verses 9 down through verse 16, Paul comes to the church's responsibility to honor those who are widows indeed.

And what brings us here today on Mother's Day is because in verses 9 and 10 there are certain older women who are to be added to the list for that support. Now, if I were going through this passage in detail, I would take much more time with this, but let me just answer it briefly. You notice verse 9 says, "A widow is to be put on the list only," and then there are these qualifications that follow. The question is what list? Well, there are two common responses, two common options. The first option is that this list is a list of widows who are qualified to serve in the church and be compensated for it. That's one view. This view says that the church is to care for all widows in some way (all widows, particularly that don't have children), but this list is a subset of the widows in the church. What makes this group distinct, this view says, is that they are qualified to serve in a paid position in the church. And that is possible. It's clear that as early as the second century there was a organization of older women in the church who served in the church and in some cases were compensated for it. That is a possibility.

But I tend to go with the second view (and with most commentators) and see verse 9 and this list being a list of the widows indeed that are described throughout this passage. In other words, the church is to only take the primary responsibility to care for those who meet the following qualifications and are therefore added to the list, the list to be cared for by the church. They may be given responsibilities in the church; they may not. That isn't the primary point. This list, then, I believe, is a list of those widows who meet the qualifications and are therefore to be cared for in an ongoing, permanent way by the church. I think verse 16 make this clear. When Paul summarizes everything he's dealt with in the first part of this chapter, he says that basically it comes down to this: it's either about the family assisting widows and caring for them or the church assisting widows and caring for them. So then we can summarize it like this. One commentator has written, "A church may have a list of elderly and godly widows who have no one else to care for them. The church commits itself to assist these widows and in turn may ask them to perform certain tasks as need arises."

You say well, why would you go to this passage this morning on Mother's Day? And here's why. What makes this passage a compelling passage for every woman here is that, under inspiration, the apostle Paul describes the character of the kind of woman Christ wants the church to care for on an ongoing basis. There are certain women whom Christ identifies as especially worthy of honor and support, and it's because of how they live their lives. And so this passage then becomes a sort of divine assessment of what constitutes a godly life for any Christian woman. This should be your goal: to be the kind of woman described in this passage; that Christ would say that's the kind of woman I want the church to support if she has no other means. Let's look at this passage together. First Timothy 5:9:

A widow [then] is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one-man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.

Ladies, every Christian woman here should strive to be the kind of woman that Christ commands the church to especially honor. Obviously age is a part of that. Verse 9 says she has to be 60 or older. That's because in the ancient world with its shorter lifespan, to live to 60 was to live to old age. Even today with the average life span for women being about 78 years, when a woman reaches 60 she's an older woman. She's lived a long life. And also, while it certainly can happen, after 60 remarriage becomes less likely as a general rule, and so there's concern about her being cared for.

The issue here in 1 Timothy 5 is caring for those women in the church who reached this age and are widows. Of course, the church is to provide temporary care for anyone in the church who is in need, including younger widows, but in this passage Paul is talking about ongoing support. You know, the kind of support described in Acts 6. You remember in the Jerusalem church there was a group of men that were sort of the preliminary to the office of deacon who were selected to do what? To pass out food to whom? The widows in the church. To care for those who were older. Here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul says that the church is to provide ongoing care.

But old age is not enough. She does have to be at least 60, and she has to have no other means of support, but there are also qualities about this woman that must be present. And only women who have met these certain qualifications are to be cared for in some ongoing way by the church. So in these two verses Paul describes what that woman is like. There are specific qualities that transcend all circumstances, and it is the woman with those qualities that Paul praises here and commands the church to honor. But here's what I want you to get. Ultimately, this isn't about Paul, and this isn't about the church merely in Ephesus where Timothy was pastoring. Paul is merely announcing the verdict of the Lord of the church, Christ Himself. So in reality, ladies, what's going on here is Jesus Christ our Lord is telling us to honor women who reach old age and meet these qualifications. So the qualities outlined here become a kind of a pattern of feminine beauty from God's perspective. It's not about appearance. It's about the kind of woman she has become.

First of all, let's take a look, then, at these qualifications. And the first one is her heart. She has to have a certain kind of heart. Look at verse 9: put her "on the list only if she's not less than sixty years old." There's the age requirement. Here's her heart though: "Having been the wife of one man." Now, this doesn't mean that you have to have been married to be the kind of woman Christ honors. It's not describing a marital state as much as it is a condition of the heart. Literally, in the Greek text it says this: this woman is "a one-man kind of woman." She is a one-man kind of woman. A very similar expression is used in the qualifications for elders and deacons but, of course, the other way around. They are described as one-woman kind of men. This does not mean that she's only been married once as if, you know, maybe her first husband died and she never remarried. That's not what this is talking about, because in this very passage Paul encourages all younger widows to remarry. If their second husband were to die, Paul doesn't mean that they would then be disqualified from being supported by the church. Instead, this is a description of the kind of woman she is. Throughout her Christian life she has lived as a one-man kind of woman. She has lived a life of sexual and marital fidelity.

What does it mean, ladies, to be a one-man kind of woman? Well, if you're here this morning and you're a married woman, it means this. It means absolute loyalty in mind and body to your spouse. Obviously, it means that you are not to become sexually involved with someone who is not your spouse. It also means that you are not to lust in your heart after someone who is not your spouse. It means that you are not to allow your heart to stray into some kind of emotional attachment to someone who is not your spouse. You are to be a one-man kind of woman.

If you're a single woman, it also means purity of mind and body. It means that you determine to live your life in purity and not in the pursuit of sinful pleasure. In fact, look back up at verse 6. Paul describes there a single woman, a widow who gives herself to wanton pleasure, and he says she's "dead even while she lives." It's the opposite of that. It's a commitment to be pure. Certainly it includes not becoming physically involved. If you're a single person that is forbidden by the Scripture, but it also means purity in your mind. And I say that because I've been disturbed recently to discover that pornography is increasingly becoming a problem for women in our culture. Of those adults who visit pornographic sites on the internet, 72% are male, 28% are female. That means roughly 1 in 3 of those who visit pornographic sites are women. Ladies, you are to be before God a one-man kind of woman. You're not to let your mind or body stray into sin. In fact, if you're single, you are to maintain a single-hearted, single-minded devotion to one-man, and that is Jesus Christ, the God-man.

In fact, turn over to 1 Corinthians 7. Paul here is talking about the coming persecution in Corinth, and in light of that he urges that maybe singleness is the best way to remain. If you're single, maybe you should remain single. He's not talking about everywhere in all times. In other places he makes it clear that marriage is a wonderful gift from God. He's talking, specifically, about the circumstances there in Corinth. And notice what he says, verse 34. He's trying to give them some idea—there are advantages to being single. In the circumstance where you are, facing coming persecution, there are some advantages. And here's the chief advantage. Verse 34:

The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

It doesn't mean, again, that if you're married you're a second-class citizen. He's giving that advantage. I'm urging you to stay single, he says, because of the coming persecution, and in light of that, let me give you an advantage. And notice the advantage. He says if you're single, here's the advantage: you can commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ; you can be holy both in body and spirit, committed fully to Christ. For you who are single, determine that you are going to maintain purity to your Lord.

So that's the heart of a woman Christ honors. She is a one-man kind of woman. She keeps herself pure in mind and in body. She has a pure heart that is fiercely loyal to her husband, if she's married, and to her Lord whether she's married or not. That's her heart. There's a second qualification of the kind of woman that Christ honors. Notice her reputation. We've seen her heart. Look at her reputation. Verse 10, "Having a reputation for good works." Literally, the Greek text says, "in good works being witnessed of." When people think of this kind of woman, they think of someone who does a variety of works or actions that are morally good or excellent, the kind of actions that even unbelievers applaud.

You remember in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, [and what?] glorify your Father who is in heaven." We were made to display good works. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved unto good works. Ephesians—you remember we studied Ephesians 2:10. Paul writes, "For we are [God's] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus [if you are a Christian, you were created in Christ Jesus, made a new person] for good works." As I said, you're not saved by good works, you're saved by grace alone. Verse 8 makes that clear in Ephesians 2. But you are saved unto good works. Titus 3, Paul makes clear to Titus that those who profess Christ are to live in keeping with that profession. Titus 3:8, "This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God [that's us] will be careful to engage in good deeds." Titus 3:14, "Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds."

Ladies, this is especially important for you. It's important for all Christians, but this is to be what you are known for. Paul says that here. He says it in 1 Timothy 2. Turn back to 1 Timothy 2. As Paul talks about women involved in the life of the church, this is what he says. First Timothy 2:9, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments." In other words, don't come to church dressed in a way that calls all the attention to how you're dressed, that calls attention to your appearance. Instead, if you're going to call attention to yourself, verse 10, "But rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness." It is appropriate for those who claim to know God, who claim to be growing in likeness to Christ, to be adorned by, to be clothed in good works. Let me ask you, ladies, when people think of you, what do they think? What do you want them to think? Do they think of a woman who is known for her good works? That's the kind of woman Christ honors.

So this woman has a reputation for good works. But which ones? Well, the rest of verse 10, Paul goes beyond how she is known—she has this reputation for good works—he goes beyond that to describe the pursuit of her life, the specific activities in which she is involved. So let's look at the third qualification that marks a woman Christ honors. We've seen her heart, and we have as well seen her reputation. Let's look, thirdly, at her activities. Verse 10, here are the specific activities: "If she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress." Here are the specific activities that engage this woman. Now, these are intended to be mere examples. They are not all inclusive. Notice the last expression in verse 10: "She has devoted herself to every good [kind of] work." So there are other things she does as well. These are merely examples. This list is also not exclusive. For example, it's not that this woman had to have had children. God in His providence may not have allowed her to have children. But the point is here we have four specific examples that are ordinarily a part of a godly woman's life. And if she has children, she has exemplified herself in that area as a woman of godliness and excellence. So let's look at these four activities.

First of all, "If she has brought up children." In the Greek text "brought up children" is one Greek word. It's the only time it occurs in the New Testament. It literally means "to care for them physically and spiritually." These may have been her own children. Titus 2 certainly makes the point that a woman is to be consumed with caring for her children. Or since the rest of the list here in 1 Timothy 5:10 is about those outside her family, it may be these too are outside her family, that she has brought up orphans. We just don't know. The point though is this woman is consumed with caring for those under her charge, those whom God has brought into her life, over whom she is responsible. There are a lot of biblical examples of this, but I love one right here in Timothy.

Turn over to 2 Timothy 1:5. Paul writes to Timothy, his young son in the faith. And he says to him, "I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well." Paul says to Timothy that both his grandmother and his mother were godly examples in his life. In fact, they taught him. Look over in 2 Timothy 3:14:

You, however, [are to] continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood [this is long before Paul's influence in Timothy's life] you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

In other words, Lois and Eunice, his grandmother and mother, were an incredible godly influence in this young man's life, that eventually bore fruit in his receiving the gospel that came to him from Paul. They brought him up both physically and spiritually.

Listen, if you're a mother here today, the clearest implication of this qualification, this activity, is to be truly committed to the task of caring for your children. You and I both know that there are many kids who have a mother but who bring themselves up. If you're married, but you're unable to have children or unable for some reason to adopt, or if you're single, there is still a legitimate way for you to live out this first activity. It's caring for other dependents in your life and family. In fact, you see that here in 1 Timothy 5. Look down in verse 16: "If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows." In other words, there are elderly women in her life that she can care for, and of course the application would be much broader than just widows. "She must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed." So the point is God brings into our lives opportunities to care for those who depend on us (starting with children or other family, and perhaps outside the family in the church), and the woman that God honors is involved in the activity of caring for those who are dependent on her.

There's a second activity here. It says in verse 10, "If she has shown hospitality to strangers." The primary focus in the New Testament of this expression was actually letting Christians, who were traveling and needed a place to stay overnight, stay in your home. You see this back even in Jesus' ministry. Back in Matthew 10, you remember, when He sent out the twelve disciples to go out on their ministry, He sent them out and told them to stay at various houses. And enter that house and give it your blessing, He says. But notice what He says down in Matthew 10:40:

"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."

Jesus is talking about those people who, as the disciples go out on their missionary journey, put them up, care for them, receive them into their home.

And you see this go on throughout the New Testament. You remember in the ministry of the apostle Paul in Acts, he comes into Europe, and the first convert in Europe (in Acts 16:14) is a woman named Lydia. And right after the Lord opens her heart to receive the gospel, she says, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And Luke says, "And she prevailed upon us." She comes to Christ, and what's the next thing she wants to do? Open up her home for those who are ministering the gospel, caring, having hospitality for strangers in Christ. You see this in other places. In Romans 12:13, we're told to pursue hospitality. In Hebrews 13:2, we're told not to neglect being hospitable to strangers for some having done that have what? Entertained angles unknowingly. In 1 Peter 4:9, we're told to be hospitable without complaint. That happens sometimes doesn't it? Without complaint.

But I want you to turn to 3 John, John's third letter right before the little book of Jude. In 3 John it's all about receiving in hospitality those who are serving and ministering on Christ's behalf. Third John, verse 5:

Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

John here is urging Christians in the first century to open their homes and receive those itinerant preachers, those missionaries that are spreading out for the sake of the gospel.

Now, that isn't such a need today, but there is from time to time still a need for this kind of hospitality where you care for a traveling pastor or a traveling missionary. But I think there's a larger principle here. Ladies, do you see your home as all about you, or do you open it gladly and freely to serve others? Whether you are putting up Christians and missionaries and others who are simply traveling through, or whether you are hosting various church events, or whether you are simply inviting other Christians over to reach out to them, the question is, is your home merely a selfish retreat, or is it a tool by which you serve Christ by serving others? The kind of woman Christ honors is a woman who is open to hospitality to other Christians, caring for them in various ways, looking to use her home as an instrument for the kingdom of God.

There's a third activity she's involved in in verse 10. It says, "If she has washed the saints' feet." Paul is not referring here to what some would say, a sort of first century foot washing ceremony that was born out of John 13. If that's what Paul was referring to, then that means every Christian woman would have been involved in it, and it would make no sense to list it here as a special qualification. Instead, what Paul is referring to is simply the times in which they lived. Before paved sidewalks, before roads, before cars, and in an area like Palestine where it didn't rain for more than six months out of the year, it was incredibly dusty. Those of you who have been to Israel you understand that. And when you walked in that ancient day in sandals (in order to stay reasonably cool) you would pick up a lot of dirt on your feet. So when you arrived at someone's home, they provided a way for you to clean your feet. In a poor home, the woman of the house might have done it herself. In a wealthier home, she would have made sure that it was done; it would have been done under her supervision. This simply describes what a gracious host or hostess would have done. The point is, this kind of woman is willing to serve others even in menial, humble ways, even if it comes to washing their feet in that culture. In our culture it would mean any kind of humble, menial service for someone else.

Are you always thinking about how you can serve others, ladies? There are endless numbers of ways to do this: providing meals, cleaning their house, polishing their shoes, doing their shopping, doing a drug store run. The opportunities are really endless. But it requires you to think of yourself as one who is here to serve others, and then thinking of how you can serve them in very practical, perhaps humble and menial ways. That's the kind of woman Christ honors. How in the world would we think we should be higher than Christ who, on the night before His crucifixion—did what? Literally, washed the disciples feet.

There's a fourth activity she's involved in. It says, "She has assisted those in distress." The Greek word for "distress" is a general word for being under pressure. It speaks of those countless kinds of pressures and troubles that come into everyone's life. We all have them—right? Different kinds of distress and troubles and pressures. Maybe it's sickness or surgery or the hospital or a relative who's dying or just growing old. Maybe it's other troubles like their car dies or their kid is in the hospital, their air conditioning goes out in Dallas in the middle of August, they have a baby. On and on it goes. There are a number of kinds of pressures that come into all of our lives. And the kind of woman Christ honors is the kind of woman who is always looking to help and assist those who find themselves in that kind of pressure, in that kind of trouble. This has always been the mark of true Christians. In fact, can I put it this bluntly to you? Doing this, assisting those in distress, is a mark of a true Christian.

Look at Matthew chapter 25. Here Jesus describes the judgement in graphic terms. Notice what He says in Matthew 25:34: "The King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'" Notice, they're getting in because of grace. They are blessed by God. They're inheriting something that they didn't earn. But the fact that they are to enter the kingdom, the fact that they've come to genuine faith in Christ is marked by their behavior. Verse 35, "For I was hungry," Jesus says. Remember, Jesus is the Judge here.

"'I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; [I was] naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You [as] a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say unto them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

Jesus says, at the judgment the indication that someone is really belonging to Me is did they care for others in their distress?

There's one woman in the New Testament who was known for this in a beautiful way. Look at Acts chapter 9. You remember this woman named Tabitha? Acts 9:36. It says, "Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha." This is right on the Mediterranean coast in Israel. Tabitha translated in Greek is called "Dorcas." "This woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did." She fell sick. She died. And then Peter shows up, and, of course, Peter is going to raise her from the dead. But look at verse 39: "When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; [and watch this ] all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them." Here was a woman who saw those widows living on the Mediterranean coast where it can get very cold in the wintertime, and she involved herself in serving those widows simply by making clothes for them, so they could be warm in that climate. Let me just ask you ladies, are you known for practically helping those who are in distress?

Those are the activities. Those four are specific examples of the activities the kind of woman Christ honors, and that the church should honor. That brings us, briefly, to the last qualification of the woman that Christ honors. Let's look at her priorities. Verse 10 ends with these words: "And if she has devoted herself to every good work." Now at first glance this tends to be just a summary of what has already been said, but there's much more in this expression than that. The key word is the word "devoted." It literally means "to follow after." It's not just that she does good works. She pursues good works. She does it willfully and joyfully. One commentator says, "She has at all times thrown her whole heart into good deeds." She has devoted herself to these priorities. The focus here is on her devotion, her single-mindedness, her unswerving commitment to be involved in good works of every conceivable kind. She lives out these priorities that are in this passage: 1 Timothy 5:5, her God; verse 9, her husband; verse 10, her children and family; verse 10, the church, the fellow saints, the fellow Christians. She is devoted to others, to her God and to others.

Ladies, let me ask you, do you understand that this is the kind of woman the church is to honor? And that means that this is the kind of woman that Christ Himself honors. Here is the pattern of womanhood. Here is the model to pursue, whether you're single or married or divorced or widowed. Regardless of your age, if you are a woman here this morning, this is the target at which you should aim. Let me ask you, are you willing to make whatever changes in your life are necessary in order to bring your life into conformity with this text and what's important to Christ? Are you willing to pursue being the kind of woman Christ honors?

Men, I've left you out this morning, but let me talk to you for a moment. What are the implications of this passage on us? If you are married this morning, let me ask you, can your wife say that you encourage and support her at being or becoming this kind of woman? If you are single, guys, is this the kind of woman you're looking for? Or are your perspectives about what makes a woman attractive and desirable all skewed by the culture around you? This is the kind of woman Christ honors.

And for all of us, men and women, folks, we have to remember that we actually live in the real twilight zone. We live in a world where everything is upside down, where the things that God honors and praises are looked at as disgusting deformities; and the things that are praised and honored here God sees as disgusting, a world darkened by sin, a world with a distorted sense of virtue and value. The question is, men and women, who are you listening to? Who is going to determine for you the admirable qualities in a woman? Is it going to be your friends? Your culture? Your own mind? Or is it going to be your Lord? Ladies, determine today that you're going to give your life to pursuing this pattern, so that (if God should in His providence dictate in the time to come) you could be this woman supported because your life is described like this; that you want to be the kind of woman not only the church honors but Christ honors as well, not only through this passage and in this life but when you stand before Him and He says well done. Let's pray together.

Father, we thank You for Your word. We thank You for how it cuts across the mindset of our age. We thank You, O God, for how it allows us to understand Your thinking. Lord, correct our skewed perspective, the one we have been influenced by and embraced from the culture around us. Help us to see what godly women are to be. And Lord, I pray for the women here this morning, that they would commit themselves to pursue this goal, to aim at this target. And Father may all of us who are husbands be a help and support and an encouragement to them in that process. Father, I pray for the person here this morning who, while this has not been a gospel message, they have seen themselves in the light of Your Word, and have seen that they have not and could never live up to Your standard. Lord, may they realize their only hope is grace, the grace that You extend in Your Son, Jesus Christ, and may this morning they fall before Him in repentance and faith. We pray in Jesus' name, for His sake. Amen.