"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." 1 Timothy 5:8 KJV

What is the connection between providing for one's family and denying the faith?


4 Answers 4


This verse, like most of the verses in the letters to Timothy, should not be taken out of its specific context, nor the context of personal instruction to a specific leader of a specific church community. These words were never intended to be heard by a broad, public audience - let alone taken as advice thousands of years later. They were meant to be understood by Timothy only.

The statement refers in particular to anyone who expected the church to feed, house and otherwise provide for a widowed relative.

This chapter begins with instructions for Timothy to treat everyone in his community as if they were a family member.

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. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

This is consistent with Jesus' teachings, who afforded his disciples the same amount of respect and honour as his mother and brothers - if not more, for their faith.

Pointing to his disciples, he 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 12:49)

The letter to Timothy then goes on to talk specifically about widows. Women at the time could not earn a living, and once past childbearing age they were considered unsuitable for remarriage. These women whose husbands had died therefore had no means to support themselves, and were forced to rely on family members to provide for them. But widows with no family didn't have this option.

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 requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. (1 Timothy 5:3-4)

Here, Timothy, as head of the church in Ephesia, is instructed to provide only for those widows who have no children or grandchildren, and also to instruct the children or grandchildren of widows who have family to provide for them out of respect and gratitude - not expect the church to do it. Because if one cannot learn to show respect, honour and gratitude initially towards their parents who raised them, as commanded in the OT, then how can they learn to show love and compassion for the least among them, for their neighbour or their enemy, as Jesus taught?

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. (1 Timothy 5:8)

An infidel here is an unbeliever, one who has not yet been given the opportunity to believe. To provide for one's own widowed mother or grandmother is Jesus' teachings 101: if anyone claims to be a believer or follower of Jesus, and yet will not even act with love and compassion towards one's own family, they would be considered worse than someone who has not been taught either Hebrew law (which commands honour for parents) or the way of Jesus (which commands love and compassion for all).

  • You wrote: "Women at the time could not earn a living". Are you certain of this? Do you have some documentation for the claim? Otherwise +1 Dec 23, 2018 at 8:01
  • Jewish women were considered an extension and therefore the economic responsibility of their husband or the eldest male in their family (father, brother, son, brother-in-law). While they were technically not forbidden to 'work' or own property, they were restricted by laws that prevented them from being seen or spoken to outside the home, and no education or trades were available. 'Work' for women meant serving men. Wealthy widows without family had freedom and autonomy, but for those at subsistence level or below and past childbearing, this placed them outside the protection of the law. Dec 24, 2018 at 6:59
  • uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/17215/… - from about page 113... Dec 24, 2018 at 7:04

Paul is not suggesting that if a man fails to provide for his family that he's in danger of losing the gift of righteousness or that the holy spirit would abandon him. He's simply saying that that behavior is not even acceptable among unbelievers.

This is another example of this idea:

NLT 1 Corinthians 5:1 "I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother."

Under the Jewish covenants the spirit would be taken from those who transgressed in certain ways. However God made a covenant with David to only chastise, not punish him and his sons and to always show mercy:

[Isa 55:3 KJV] 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, [even] the sure mercies of David.

As 144,000 Jews were marked in their foreheads so they would not be killed in the day of visitation on Jerusalem (70ad) so the "saints" are inviolably "sealed" with holy spirit:

[Isa 55:3 KJV] 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, [even] the sure mercies of David.

[Eph 1:13-14 CSB] 13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

Notice that he says "If he does not provide for his household (IE: the workers) especially those of his own house (family). So the family is just the most important group with whom the man has "a deal" (which is what a "covenant" is):

[Mal 2:14 CSB] 14 And you ask, "Why? " Because even though the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, you have acted treacherously against her. She was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant.


in Hebrew, the verb used for the word "honor [thy father and thy mother]," is the term כַּבֵּד kaved, which is the same root used to describe כָּבוֹד kavod, the glory of the Eternal.

And it is interesting to note that the Ten Commandments were constructed in a polite, cordial and polite language, using in most verses the future tense (called Yiqtol), but in the fifth commandment, the order is direct.

The Eternal uses the verb לְכַבֵּד "lechavod" "honor", in the imperative, and even more, in the Hebrew construction of the "Piel", which indicates that the verb is in the intensive mode.

Reflecting this intensity, the paraphrased translation for Aramaic in Targum Neofiti, which brings in its text a tradition from the time of the Apostles, says:

... take heed to the glory of his father and the glory of his mother, since whoever honors his father and mother, I will give him long days and fullness of years ...

Source: https://brasilgospel.club/antigo/exodo/honra-teu-pai-e-tua-mae/


He is teaching according to a principle taught by Jesus, except using its inverse:

Matthew 5:43-48 (DRB)

You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: 45 That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? 47 And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? 48 Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus is saying you do not attain to more virtue than the 'Scribes and Pharisees' and 'heathen' and 'tax collector' types who are lost (or at least epitomic of the lost) if you do only what they do, and do not surpass them in virtue (hence the necessity of surpassing it: 5:20).

The inverse of which (here employed by St. Paul) is that if you don't do what even such do, you are worse than they are, and lost as well—are no better than a heathen, and don't have the faith.

  • @Ruminator Comments should be reserved for requests for clarification or suggestions for improvements. They are not for debating subject matter, esp. when it isn't even directly related to the question.
    – Caleb
    Dec 26, 2018 at 6:01
  • If the downvoters could give some reasons why they downvoted, or tell me how I can improve my answer, that would be much appreciated. Dec 26, 2018 at 13:47

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