“And these things command, that they may be blameless. 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” (1 Timothy 5:7-8).
While modern-day families often have greater options for elder care than those who lived in the Biblical era, the basic concept behind 1 Timothy 5:3-8 remains unchanged. The idea is that family caregivers and those who receive such care are each responsible to set good examples. In other words, there is a mutual responsibility to honor God for both the caregiver and the recipient so “…they may be blameless.”
For instance, a family member who cares for an elderly family member must be sensitive to the fact that advancing age, physical infirmity, loss of freedom, and declining capabilities often cause pain, irritation, and/or frustration for the elderly. These unfortunate realities may sometimes cause an elder to lash out at those who seek to help.
For a care-giving family member, it’s important to recognize that such factors may lead to hurtful comments and attempt to be gracious and forgiving. As we’re reminded in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
While it is natural to focus upon the obligations of family caregivers within this passage, it would be inappropriate to leave these verses without considering the responsibilities incurred by those who depend upon their care. For example, the difficulties that often accompany old age do not entitle an elder to interact with others in an unkind or insensitive manner.
You see, those who receive assistance also have certain obligations towards those who care for them. An elder who complains incessantly, makes hurtful comments, or continually insists on having his or her own way must remember that he or she will account to God for his or her behavior.
While it is proper to offer respect and deference to the aged, an elder is responsible to act in a manner that is worthy of such respect to the best of his or her ability. The following commentator summarizes this difficult topic as well as the mutual responsibility that exits for the aged and their family members…
“What is true of the Church is true within the family. If a person is to be supported, that person must be supportable. If a parent is taken into a home and then by inconsiderate conduct causes nothing but trouble, another situation arises. There is a double duty here; the duty of the child to support the parent and the duty of the parent to be such that that support is possible within the structure of the home.” (1)
(1) Barclay, William. “Church And Family Duty (1Ti_5:3-8)”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-5.html. 1956-1959.