Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy who was a true son in the faith. More specifically today’s passages is found in the fifth and sixth chapters of this New Testament book. “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to require their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a Dino indeed, and desolate, trustees in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have loved strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger woman marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 4:1-16).
“Let the elders that rule well be counted of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid” (1 Timothy 5:17-25).
“Let as many servant as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which crown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:1-10).
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immorality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:11-16).
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they birch in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babbling, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith> Grace be with thee. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:17-21).
When you come to the fifth and sixth chapters of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy you will find the epistle drawing to a close. As I read the words presented in this passage of Scripture today I can’t help but be gripped with the heading for the first two verses of the fifth chapter in the New King James Version. The heading that is above the fifth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy reads as “Treatment of Church Members” and is something which is truly unique and captivating when you take the time to think about it. I find it absolutely incredible that within this epistle the apostle Paul would admonish and exhort Timothy regarding treatment of church members—and not solely regarding treatment of church members but how we ought to treat the members of the body of Christ. Pause for a moment and ask yourself when the last time was you truly stopped to think about how you treated the members of the body of Christ. When was the last time you as one who professes to be a disciple and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ stopped to evaluate and assess your own personal treatment of the members of the body of Christ. Are you one who esteems others as better than yourself and are you one who places the needs of others above yourself? Are you one who respects the individual members of the body of Christ—regardless of those things which make the members unique and different? When was the last time you entered into the house of the Lord and asked yourself how you could show love to the members of the body? When was the last time you entered into the house of the Lord and asked how you could say or do something that would truly make an impact upon those members within the body of Christ you might interact with—whether it’s before the service or after the service?
I sit here today thinking about the tremendous significance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how the apostle Paul deliberately and intentionally sought to admonish Timothy—not only how he himself treats the members of the body of Christ but also how the individual members treat each other. There is something to be said about men and women who take the time to truly recognize and understand how they treat the individual members of the body of Christ—how they act towards and around them, how they speak to them, and even what they think about them within their hearts and heads. Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities of Jesus’ public ministry was His ability to discern the thoughts and intents of the hearts of men. Throughout the four gospel narratives you will find account after account of Jesus perceiving within Himself the thoughts within the hearts of those He interacted with. Whether it was the thoughts of the scribes and the Pharisees or the thoughts of His own disciples Jesus was very much aware of those thoughts which were present within their hearts and minds. This is something truly captivating when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention the absolutely wonderful reality of how incredibly important the thoughts are within our in the sight and presence of the living God.
With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible link and importance of the heart and the mouth. If you take the time to read the words which are found within the New Testament gospel narratives written about the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus you will find this intrinsic link between the heart within a man and both the tongue and the mouth. I am reminded of two distinct passages within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew when Jesus does in fact describe the link between the heart within a man and the mouth and the words which proceed forth from it. Jesus was very careful to help His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him understand that it was not that which went into the mouth that defiled a man but rather that which came out of the mouth. Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible truth surrounding the tongue together with our lips and very mouth and how the truest litmus test for the condition of our heart is the words which proceed out of our mouths. If you truly want to know the condition of your heart you need only listen to the words which proceed forth from you mouth. There is perhaps no truer barometer that is used to gauge the condition of one’s heart than the tongue and the words which proceed forth out of the mouth. It is perhaps for this reason—or one of the reasons—Solomon admonished his son(s) to guard his heart for out of it flow the issues of life: “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. DO not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:23-27).
I find it absolutely astonishing when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that Solomon would admonish his son(s) to keep their heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the need to guard our heart with all diligence is of utmost importance for in guarding our heart we are in fact doing more than simply guarding the heart itself. When we guard our hearts we are indeed guarding and keeping the issues of life and doing ourselves a great service within the days and generation in which we life. With this being said it’s interesting to note that immediately following Solomon admonishing his son(s) to keep their heart with all diligence and declaring how out of it spring the issues of life he transitions to that which proceeds forth from their mouth—and not only that which proceeds out of their mouth but also the condition of their lips. Solomon admonished his son(s) to keep their heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life and then instructs them to put away from them a deceitful mouth and to put perverse lips far from them. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful link and connection between the heart and the words which proceed out of out mouth. Solomon admonished and encouraged his son(s) to keep their heart with all diligence and then proceeded to first instruct them concerning their mouth and lips. What’s more is after this Solomon would also instruct them to let their eyes look straight ahead and their eyelids to look right before them. He would further go on to instruct them to ponder the path of their feet and let all their ways be established. Moreover Solomon would also instruct them to not turn to the right or the left and to remove their foot from evil.
Having written all of this so far I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the eleventh and fifteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Moreover I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the first and third chapters of the New Testament epistle written by James. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words presented in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the intrinsic link between the tongue and the heart as well as the link between the mouth and the tongue. What’s more is that in addition to this I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to some of the words which Solomon himself wrote in the Old Testament book of the Proverbs. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs you will encounter and come face to face with strong and powerful language concerning the tongue, the lips and the mouth. Within and throughout the Old Testament book of Proverbs there are countless references to these members of our body and how absolutely important it is for us to guard them with all diligence and to mark them well that we might not sin and transgress against the commandment of the living God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for there is perhaps no greater arena and environment where we need to guard our heart, guard our lips, guard our tongue and guard our mouth than in our relationship(s) with others. Relationships with others—regardless of how that relationship is defined—are the perfect ground for us as the saints of God to mark carefully the words which proceed forth from our mouth and to ensure that our lips and our tongue does not lead us into sin. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew as well as the New Testament epistle written by James:
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whosever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good and it’s fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:31-37).
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, Why do your disciples transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and your mother; and, He who cruses father or mother, let him be put to death. But you say, Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God—then he need not honor his father or mother. Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Then His disciples came and said to Him, Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying? But He answered and said, Every plant which my Heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. Then Peter answered and said to him, Explain this parable to us. So Jesus said, Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murderers, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which Cecil a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matthew 15:1-20).
Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first and third chapters of the New Testament epistle written by James and the words and language he used concerning the tongue and its importance within every area and part of our lives:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bride his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to eep oneself in spotted from the world” (James 1:21-27).
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able to also bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things out not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 3:1-12).
OUT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART! OUT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKS! Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible these words truly are for they call and draw our attention to something which must needs be considered within our hearts and lives. I read the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples and unto the multitudes—including the scribes and the Pharisees—and He emphatically declares that out of the abundance of the hear the mouth speaks. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is that the heart is a deep reservoir that holds absolutely every area and aspect of our lives. Jesus spoke of “the abundance of our heart” which in all reality speaks to that which is actually found within our heart. WHATEVER YOUR HEART IS FILLED WITH WILL PROCEED OUT OF YOUR MOUTH! Please mark this and mark it well for as was previously mentioned the single greatest litmus test for the condition of our heart(s)—and not only the condition of our heart(s) but also what is in our heart(s)—is indeed the words which proceed forth from our mouths. If you want to truly understand the condition of your heart and what is in it you need only listen to the words which proceed forth from your mouth. Absolutely every word which proceeds forth from your mouth is a reflection of that which is found within your heart—whether evil or good. This is something we dare not and must not miss or lose sight of for one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is what are our hearts filled with. If Jesus spoke of the abundance of the heart then we must needs ask ourselves what is actually present within our hearts. What have we filled our hearts with and what have we allowed to fill our hearts throughout the course of each day? That which we allow to fill our hearts and that which we allow to consume our hearts is also that which can and will proceed forth from our mouths.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is what we are allowing and we have allowed to fill our hearts. Are we carefully guarding our hearts that we might not sin against the living God by what we speak? It was Jeremiah who prophesied of the heart that it was desperately wicked and deceitful above all things and then asked who can know it. It is written in the Scripture that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart within a man. It is also written in Scripture how God tests and tries the reigns of the heart and this is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding regarding the importance of our heart in the sight of God. With this being said we must not only understand how importance our heart is in the sight of the living God but also how important the condition of our heart is in our relationships on a daily basis. The condition of our hearts and the abundance of what is found within our hearts are incredibly important when you take the time to think about it it for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding our hearts and what we allow to fill it. With this being said we must recognize that it is us and only us who are responsible for what is poured into our heart. There is absolutely no one else who is or can be responsible for what we allow to fill and flood our hearts for that responsibility is solely upon us and us alone. No one else is going to guard your heart for you and it is up to you to guard and keep your heart with all diligence. What’s more is if you want to take inventory of what’s in your heart start listening to—and not only listening to but also perhaps writing down—that which proceeds from your mouth. Not only this but I find it absolutely necessary to declare that it’s not only about what proceeds out of your mouth but also what you put in text messages, what you put in e-mails and what you speak to others in various forms of writing and communication.
The more I read the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy concerning the treatment of the members of the spiritual body of Christ the more I am reminded of how important the words which proceed forth from our mouths truly are. There is a great need for us as men and women who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to guard carefully our mouths and the words which proceed forth from our lips. It was James who emphatically wrote concerning the tongue who it was set on fire by hell itself and is an unruly evil. Jesus emphatically declared that it was not that which entered into the mouth that defiled a man but rather that which proceeded out of the mouth that defiled a man. This is something which warrants strong consideration within our hearts and lives to recognize and pay close attention to for we must needs acknowledge absolutely every word which proceeds forth from our lips and from our mouth. Permit me to ask you how often you take spiritual inventory of your heart and truly examine what is found within it. How often do you take an inventory of your heart by actively listening to the words which proceed out of your mouth? They say conversation is as much about listening as it is speaking and we as Christians must needs recognize that we need to hear and listen to the words which proceed out of our mouths just as much as those we are speaking and conversing with. We know the Holy Spirit is actively listening to the words which proceed forth out of our mouths and we know that more often than not when we speak we are speaking to someone else and desire to be heard and listened to. With this being said, however, it is absolutely necessary to recognize and understand that when we speak it isn’t enough for those we are speaking to to listen to the words which proceed out of our mouths. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to listen to and hear the words which proceed out of our mouths for by doing so we are indeed able to take inventory of what is present within our hearts.
I sit here writing these words and I am brought face to face with how absolutely important it is to know and understand what is found within our hearts. What’s more is that we should not only be aware of what is present within our hearts but we must also understand and recognize the words which proceed forth from our lips. We as the saints of God must needs recognize and understand the words which proceed forth out of our mouth(s) for it reveals and demonstrates what we have allowed to fill our hearts. Oh are you truly aware of what is found within your heart? When was the last time you sat down and took an inventory of what was present within your heart that you truly know and understand what is inside of it? When was the last time you sat in the presence of the Lord and asked Him to reveal to you that which was found within your heart? I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as disciples of Christ to begin listening and paying attention to the words which proceed out of our mouths that we might know and understand what is present within our hearts. It was Jesus who declared unto us that we can and will be judged and give an account for every idle word which proceeds out of our mouths and we must needs understand that the living and eternal God is indeed listening to every word which proceeds out of our mouth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is a great need for us as the saints of God to recognize and pay attention to the words which proceed forth from our mouths and that which we allow to proceed forth from our tongue and from our lips. It is with this in mind and in the context of relationships I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians, the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints, the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints, the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the churches of Galatia as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I made known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individual as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one members suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoke, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never failed. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greats of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome beginning with the first verse:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us used it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
Consider the following words which were written by the apostle Paul unto the saints at Ephesus which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle beginning with the first verse:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now this, He ascended—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended dis also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the statures of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Here are the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches of Galatia which are recorded for us beginning with the sixteenth chapter of the fifth chapter and continuing into the sixth chapter of the same epistle:
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like: of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering your a self lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10).
And finally, here are the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi beginning with the first verse of the second chapter:
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than itself. Let each of you look not out only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservants, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
It is having included each of these passages of Scripture which clearly demonstrate how we are to conduct ourselves in the world—and not only in the world but also as members of the spiritual body of Christ—I feel it necessary to return to the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy. If you turn your attention back to the fifth chapter you will find the apostle Paul describing for Timothy how the relationships in the midst of the body of Christ ought to be conducted. In the opening verse of the fifth chapter the apostle Paul admonishes Timothy not to rebuke an older man but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all purity. With this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of a passage in the four gospels when it was told Jesus that his mother and his brethren were outside wishing to see Him. In response to this Jesus would ask the question concerning who His mother was, who His brethren were and would then turn His gaze and attention to the disciples. Upon looking at the disciples Jesus would then proceed to say that those who do the will of His Father which was in heaven were His mother, his brothers and his sisters. What’s more is there is another passage found in the gospels when Simon called Peter spoke unto Jesus concerning all they had abandoned, all they had forsaken and all they had rejected for the sake of following Him. Jesus would seemingly gloss over and choose not to speak to or acknowledge the words which Simon called Peter would speak unto Him and would reveal unto him all that he would gain in this life and in the next for making the decision to walk with and follow Jesus in this life having abandoned, forsaken and left everything in this life. I am convinced we must needs recognize and understand these words as well as the words which Jesus spoke concerning loving mother, and father, and brother and sister for they help serve as a powerful foundation for what we find within this passage of Scripture. With this in min dI invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Synoptic gospels concerning these accounts within the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus:
“Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:32-39).
“While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, Look, Your mother and your brothers standing outside, seeking to speak with you. But He answered and said to the one who told Him, Who is my mother and who are my brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).
“Then Peter began to say to Him, See, we have left all and followed you. So Jesus answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31).
There is a reason I included these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous reality of the brethren within the spiritual body of Christ. Simon called Peter spoke unto Jesus and declared how he and the other disciples had left all and followed Him. Jesus responded by declaring that there was not one who had left hour or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children for His sake and the gospel’s sake who shall not receive a hundredfold in this life. Jesus would then go on to declare that they would receive brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fathers and so much more in this and in the next. What adds even more weight and significance to this is when you consider the words which Jesus spoke unto that one who told Him that His mother and brothers were outside looking to speak with Him. Jesus would not only ask the question who His mother and brethren were but He would then go on to stretch His hand out toward the disciples and declare that they were his mother and his brothers. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider how Jesus would declare that whoever does the will of His Father in heaven is his brother and sister and mother. This is something we must needs recognize and understand within this life for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the reality of spiritual mothers, spiritual fathers, spiritual brothers and spiritual sisters. It is indeed true that we might have one or more biological brother(s) or sister(s) and it is true that each and every one of us has biological parents, however, what we must needs recognize and understand is that when we speak about the body of Christ we have been given something many do not even think twice about. Within the spiritual body of Christ we have been given spiritual mothers, spiritual fathers, spiritual brothers and spiritual sisters.
Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found at the very heart and center of the spiritual body of Christ is that we as the saints of God have indeed been given the ability to have in this life a spiritual family. Within the spiritual body of Christ it makes no difference whether your biological mother or biological father have been in the picture your whole life or if they were absent. It makes no difference whether or not you have had biological brothers or biological sisters. Moreover it makes no difference whether you have had biological children of you own. Within the spiritual body of Christ is a divine mystery that is centered upon a spiritual family that has been brought together in the person of Jesus the Christ. The spiritual body of Christ is indeed made up of brothers and sisters and it is also made up of mothers and fathers. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to how incredibly vital the spiritual body of Christ truly is within our lives. We might have grown up without a biological father or mother being present in our lives and we might have even grown up not even knowing who our biological father or mother are. We might have grown up as an only child and never had brothers or sisters in our home. What makes the spiritual body of Christ so incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it is that it brings together men and women in the context of family as brothers and sisters and even as mothers and fathers. The spiritual body of Christ brings its individual members together as those who are able to be united together in fellowship and community with others who can indeed be their brethren and even their mother or their father.
When writing unto Timothy the apostle Paul admonished him to not rebuke an older man but exhort him as a father. In direct alignment with this the apostle Paul goes on to instruct him to exhort younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. There is a great need for us as the spiritual members of the body of Christ to be such who recognize that we have each been given a place within the body of Christ as brothers, as sisters, as mothers and as fathers. Oh I continue to be captivated with the tremendous truth that each and every one of us has been given a place within the spiritual body of Christ which is unique to us alone. There is absolutely no one else who can occupy the place within the spiritual body of Christ as we can and as we have been called to occupy. Each and every one of us has been assigned a place within the spiritual body of Christ for each and every one of us has been uniquely placed within the body of Christ that we might truly occupy it the way we have been created and formed to occupy. I continue to be absolutely captivated with the concept of puzzles and the individual pieces which are found within every puzzle box. Each and every puzzle piece was formed and created in such a way that it naturally connects to at least two other pieces within the box. There are some pieces which connect to three or four other pieces but each and every piece was designed to connect to at least two other pieces. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for each and every one of us has been carefully designed and created within the spiritual body of Christ to naturally connect to at least two other members. Of course each and every one of us has been called to occupy our place within the spiritual body of Christ, however, we must needs recognize that we have been carefully created within the body of Christ to connect to other members which in turn not only help the image of the whole to be seen and manifested but also helps to connect us to others.
If you continue reading within the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy you will find him transitioning to a group of people within the spiritual body of Christ which I am convinced gets overlooked more often than not. Beginning with the third verse you will find the apostle Paul admonishing Timothy to honor widows who are really widows. The apostle Paul goes on to declare unto Timothy that any widow who has children or grandchildren must first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents for this is good and acceptable before God. She who was and really is a widow and left alone trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. She, however, who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. The apostle Paul urged Timothy to teach and command these things that the widows might be blameless in the sight of the living God. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to write and declare that anyone who does not provide for their own—and especially for those of their household—they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. Oh there is something we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find the apostle Paul instructing Timothy regarding a particular group within the church—one that is near and dear to my own heart. A little over a year ago my own mother became a widow after her husband—my father—of almost forty years passed away from COVID pneumonia. On October 15th of last year my father passed away and departed from this world and entered into the realm of eternity. I remember very well when that event occurred because my brother and I were in the hospital room when it took place. I remember watching his chest rise and fall for the last time and when he passed from this life to the next. I remember spending an hour in that hospital room not ready to leave just yet because of who I would be leaving behind.
As I am writing these words I remember very well what those days, weeks and months were like for my mother as she was mourning the loss of her husband of nearly forty years. I remember what it was like for my mother to not only cope with the loss of my father but also learn how to do some of those things he would do for her. Little thing such as starting her car in the morning, scraping the ice off the windows and windshield, putting gas in her car, picking up coffee in the morning and so much more. I didn’t realize how much my dad actually did for my mom until after he had passed away and transitioned from this life to the next. I remember the tremendous struggle my mother faced—and in some ways continues to face to this day—in the absence of my father. I remember my mom needing to go out and mow the grass, shovel the driveway and sidewalk and various other things which my father would do while he was still alive. It is with this being said a vision and burden began to be birthed within my own heart and soul—one for a group of people who are very near and dear to the heart of the Father in heaven. I recall hearing and listening to a message preached by Jim Cymbala—senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle—and the title of the message was “God’s forgotten people.” The entire premise of the message was that God did indeed and did in fact have a people who were near and dear to His heart and who are more often than not forgotten—even within the spiritual body of Christ. I am absolutely convinced there is a group of people within the spiritual body of Christ who are largely overlooked and largely ignored—this despite the fact they are near and dear to the heart of the Father. It was the living God who repeatedly within the Law and through the prophets would admonish His people to look after and care for the orphans and widows which were present among them. In all reality there were three distinct groups of people within the people of Israel who held a special place within the heart of the Father—the poor, the orphans and the widows. So near and dear to the heart of God were these people that He would instruct His people to diligently strive to care for and look after them.
Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of widows and the need they have in the wake of the death of their husband is found in the Old Testament book of Ruth. It is within this book you will find Naomi and her husband together with their two sons departing from Bethlehem during a time of famine and entering into the land of Moab. It would be there in Moab where both of Naomi’s sons would marry wives—something which would be somewhat short-lived. What we find within this Old Testament book of Ruth is that in the course of time—not only did Naomi’s own husband die but so also did both of her sons. There would come a point in time when Naomi would become a widow and when each of her son’s wives would themselves become widows. Within this passage of Scripture, however, we find Naomi hearing something that would alter the trajectory of her life. Naomi would indeed hear that there was bread in Bethlehem which literally means “The house of bread.” Naomi, Ruth and Orpah would initially depart from Moab and make their journey, however, Naomi would encourage them to remain behind in the land of Moab. The account within this Old Testament book reveals how Orpah would choose to remain and abide in Moab whereas Ruth would continue with Naomi and declare unto her that her God would be her God and her people would be her people. Ruth would undoubtedly leave her own mother, her own father and perhaps even her own brother(s) and sister(s) that she might cling to and accompany Ruth. Oh the narrative of Ruth is very much similar to that of Abraham in that just as Abraham would leave his brethren, his mother and father and his home land so also would Ruth leave her mother, her father and perhaps any brothers or sisters she might have had. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for what the Old Testament book of Ruth reveals to us are two widows who would cling to each other and who would rely upon each other as they not only journeyed to the house of bread but would also dwell and abide in that place.
I can’t help but be incredibly gripped and captivated with the account of Ruth and Naomi and how they were two women who had lost their husbands within the land of Moab. I am also reminded of Anna who was mentioned in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke and how she too was a widow who did not depart from the Temple night or day but would remain in it praying and prophesying. I’m reminded of the widow of Nain who had just lost her only son to death and how Jesus would show up at the funeral procession and would give her her son back. Scripture is replete with example after example of widows—not only on an individual basis where we know their names but on a corporate basis as a group of people within a people. It is with this being said and observing my own mother becoming a widow I have come face to face with a burden to reach out to and care for widows. With this being said I recognize that a widow is not only a wife who lost her husband but also a husband who lost their wife. Widows aren’t simply female by nature but can also include men as well for both have lost their partner in this life. Along these lines I have a tremendous burden to create and open a center that is available to widows of any age, any race, any religion, any political affiliation and has absolutely no restrictions or limitations. I have within my heart a vision to open a center that offers a place of shelter and community for widows to come and stay who have a difficult time sleeping in their home, their condo, their apartment, their townhome and the like after the loss of their spouse. I remember the continual struggle my own mother had night after night knowing my father would never sleep next to her again. I would love to open a center where widows can come and spend the night, get freshly cooked meals, shower and take care of themselves and simply enjoy fellowship and community with other widows.
If there is one thing I noticed when my mother became a widow it’s that she didn’t really have anyone in her life who understood the pain, the hurt and the struggle she faced. Oh there were times when she would meet someone at her job who had lost their husband or their wife and would naturally gravitate toward them and share their own experiences. I would love to open a center where widows can come and interact with other widows and truly enjoy and experience community and fellowship with others. What’s more is I have a vision of offering free services unto these widows by having volunteers of various trades who are able to assist them with tasks and chores that need to be done around their home. I have a vision of auto mechanics offering services for changing oil, washing and vacuuming their cars, plumbers fixing whatever needs to be fixed, electricians offering to assist with any of those needs, as well as those who are willing to mow their lawn, rake leaves, shovel their sidewalks and driveways. ADOPT A WIDOW! What’s more is there are programs for big brothers and big sisters and yet I have a vision of inviting men and women to adopt a widow—either in sponsoring them financially or sponsoring them in prayer or even in taking them out and spending the day with them. Imagine what it would be like if there were those who were willing to adopt a widow and truly get to know them and truly engage in fellowship and community with them? What would happen if the widows among us no longer felt alone and isolated and not only had a place to go but also had other individuals who were willing to invest in them? The same reality would be true for orphans as well—those sons and daughters who perhaps have been in and out of foster care and have been bounced around with nowhere to truly call home. This is something which is very near and dear to my heart as I firmly believe in the last days we are and have been called to care for and look out for this forgotten group of people.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I am reminded of the words which James wrote and how he declared that pure and undefiled religion is to care for and look after the orphans and the widows and to keep oneself from being in spotted by the world. That which we find within this particular epistle written by the apostle Paul highlights and underscores the tremendous need for the widows among us to be looked after and cared for. What’s more is that even in the sixth chapter of the book of Acts we find the importance of widows for a dispute would rise up when the Grecians felt their widows were being neglected in the daily ministration. The sole reason the seven deacons were appointed and ordained by the apostles was to care for the widows which were present among them. It is with this being said I firmly believe there are those whom the LORD is raising up and appointing to look after, to care for and to help the orphans and the widows among us. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly willing to be those who will rise up and answer the call to care for this forgotten people of God within the spiritual body of Christ. What’s more is widows aren’t merely confined to the spiritual body of Christ but are outside of the body as well and they need just as much care, love, support and compassion as the widows within the body of Christ do. The LORD asked the prophet Isaiah whom he would send and who would go for them and the prophet responded by declaring, “Here am I. Send me!” Are you willing to answer the call of the living God to look after, to care for, to uphold, to support and to show compassion and affection to the orphans and the widows which are present among us? Are you truly willing to show the love, the grace, the mercy and the compassion of the Lord toward such individuals who are in desperate need among us?