Habits to Avoid (5:11-13, 15)

First comes the causal sequence of sensual desires that overcome their dedication to Christ, which results in a desire to marry. Younger widows would be more subject to physical desires. Similar advice, directed to men and women, appears in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. The fact of the matter is that physical desires are a current factor for younger people, and the strength of these desires often makes (re)marriage a wise course.

But verse 11 as rendered in the NIV is not graphic enough: it is more literally "sensual impulses that alienate them from Christ." It is not clear whether these widows engaged in immoral behavior (though it is possible that they did). In any case, the desire to remarry is connected with alienation from Christ—not because remarriage is prohibited (compare 1 Cor 7:8-9), but probably either because it was considered a hasty alternative to genuine repentance for immoral behavior or because they were seeking to marry unbelievers (compare 1 Cor 7:39).

The fact that Paul goes on in verse 12 to say that in this case remarriage leads to judgment, because they have rejected the first (that is, "foremost") faith (NIV they have broken their first pledge) does seem to indicate remarriage outside of the guidelines of God's will. Some have taken this as a reference to a vow of chastity, which would imply that an office of widows existed in the church at this time. But the more likely meaning of the actual term is "the faith" (the same term occurs in v. 8), which in these letters refers technically to Christianity and implies the need to believe. Given the Pauline background on teaching regarding remarriage and the positive teaching about it in verse 14, it is more likely that unsanctioned remarriage to unbelievers or precipitate remarriage in general is in mind.

A second reason not to include young widows on the list may seem like another unfair generalization: the tendency to become idle, to flit from house to house and, worse yet, to become gossips and busybodies, saying things that are inappropriate (v. 13). It may mean that young widows, their financial burden lifted, lacking the spiritual maturity to apply themselves to prayer and other tasks of ministry associated with the list, became lazy and even counterproductive. But a glance down to verse 15 (some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan) suggests that Paul already has those young widows who had fallen prey to the false teachers in view. If so, then the gossip and other foolishness belong to the category of meaningless, paradoxical chatter (1:6; 4:7; 6:20) spread by the heretics, which Paul calls "false." It is also well to keep in mind that the false teachers were particularly effective in the homes of believers (2 Tim 3:6; Tit 1:11).

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