Is dead while she liveth. When Paul says that such persons “are dead while they live,” this is supposed by some to mean that they are unbelievers; an opinion with which I do not at all agree. I think it more natural to say that a woman “is dead,” when she is useless, and does no good; for to what purpose do we live, if it be not that our actions may yield some advantage? And what if we should say that the emphasis lies in the word liveth? For they who covet an indolent life, that they may live more at their ease, have constantly in their mouth the proverbial saying: —
“For life is not to live, but to be well.”fa87
The meaning would therefore be: “If they reckon themselves happy, when they have everything to their heart’s wish, and if they think that nothing but repose and luxury can be called life, for my part, I declare that they are dead.” But as this meaning might seem liable to the charge of excessive ingenuity, I wished merely to give a passing glimpse of it, without making any positive assertion. This at least is certain, that Paul here condemns indolence, when he calls those women dead who are of no use.
7. And command these things. He means, that not only does he prescribe to Timothy the course which he ought to follow, but the women also must be carefully taught not to be stained with such vices. It is the duty of the pastor not only to oppose the wicked practices or ambition of those who act an unreasonable part, but to guard against every danger, as far as lies in his power, by instruction and constant warnings.
That they may be blameless.It was the natural result of prudence and steadfastness not to admit widows, unless they were worthy; but yet it was proper to assign a reason why they were not admitted; and it was even necessary to forewarn the Church that unworthy persons should not be brought forward, or should not offer themselves. Again, Paul commends this part of instruction on the ground of utility; as if he had said, that it must by no means be despised, because it is common, since it aims at the chief part of a good and perfect life. Now there is nothing that ought to be more diligently learned in God’s school than the study of a holy and upright life. In a word, moral instruction is compared with ingenious speculations, which are of no visible advantage, agreeably to that saying,
“All Scripture is profitable, that the man of God may become perfect,” etc. (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16.)
8. And if any person do not provide for his own. Erasmus has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles, and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both to men and to women.
He hath denied the faith. fa88 He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have “denied the faith.” And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.
Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel. This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are (storgai< fusikai>)natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster.
It is asked, Why does the Apostle prefer the members of the household to the children? I answer, when he speaks of his own and especially those of his household, by both expressions he denotes the children and grandchildren. For, although children may have been transferred, or may have passed into a different family by marriage, or in any way may have left the house of the parents; yet the right of nature is not altogether extinguished, so as to destroy the obligation of the older to govern the younger as committed to them by God, or at least to take care of them as far as they can. Towards domestics, the obligation is more strict; for they ought to take care of them for two reasons, both because they are their own blood, and because they are a part of the family which they govern.