What does 1 Timothy 5:8 mean?
ESV: But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
NIV: Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
NASB: But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
CSB: But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
NLT: But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Paul likely had the entire church in mind in the previous verse. Here, he turns more directly to individuals, particularly men. Those who can provide for their families are obligated to do so. Paul repeats the theme he used in verse 4, beginning with a conditional statement. More specifically, Paul directed his command in verse 4 toward people caring for members of 'their own household." While it may not be possible for one person to care for every relative, even unbelievers in Paul's day understood that a child's responsibility is to care for their widowed mother.

The second half of the condition in this verse provides the consequences, consisting of two parts. First, those who fail to reasonably support their own families are said to have "denied the faith." Paul mentioned two men who had denied the faith in 1 Timothy 1:19–20. He also spoke about the subject of denying Christ in 2 Timothy 2:12–13 and denying Christ's spiritual power in 2 Timothy 3:5. Christ's command is for believers to love one another (John 15:12) and that those who love Christ should follow His commands (John 14:15). It stands to reason, then, that a person cannot claim to be committed to following Christ when they choose not to care for their own families.

For the same reason, professing Christians who refuse to care for a widowed family member are considered "worse than an unbeliever." This was the ultimate shame for Timothy's audience. To be called an unbeliever would be insult enough; to be called "worse than an unbeliever" is a purposefully derogatory statement. Being cold and callous towards one's family is bad enough. To do this while dragging down the name of Christ, and Christianity, is truly despicable. This is intended to show Timothy and his church members the vital importance of caring for one's immediate family.
Verse Context:
First Timothy 5:3–16 gives Paul's instructions regarding priority in the care of widows. Since church resources are finite, it is important to focus attention on those who are most needy. In this case, Paul refers to such women as ''true widows.'' Those who are younger or more capable should not be given an excuse for laziness or gossip. And, family members have the first and foremost responsibility for caring for each other. The guidelines given here focus attention on the most vulnerable women and avoid enabling immodest behaviors.
Chapter Summary:
First Timothy chapter 5 focuses on Timothy's supervision of those within the church. This includes a respectful attitude towards both men and women, young and old. A large portion of the chapter deals with how to care for widows. The theme of Paul's instruction is prioritizing those who are truly in need, and not enabling those who are merely lazy. Timothy is also instructed on how to screen out baseless accusations against an elder, and how to properly discipline them if they are found in sin. With that in mind, Timothy is also warned not to be reckless in who he appoints as an elder.
Chapter Context:
Prior passages explained the burden placed on Timothy and other church leaders. In this chapter, the emphasis is on how Timothy is to treat others in the congregation. A large portion of this refers to prioritizing charity for widows. This passage will more or less complete Paul's specific instructions to Timothy in this letter. The next (final) chapter will build on all of these themes with a command for Timothy to make the most of his spiritual service.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
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