“But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith” (1 Timothy 5:11-12).
While we don’t have first-hand experience with the situation described for us in 1 Timothy 5:11-12, we can draw some inferences from the information provided here.
First, it seems that those who joined this first-century “widows list” pledged to devote their lives to serving Christ. While a newly-widowed young woman may have been sincere in taking such a vow, there was a realistic possibility that she might feel differently later. Therefore, part of Timothy’s leadership responsibility involved protecting these young widows from themselves to a certain extent.
You see, a younger widow might not perceive that her commitment to that vow might eventually yield to a desire for marital relations and motherhood. That would violate a Biblical tenet that all would do well to observe: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed– Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).
We find a similar warning in the Biblical book of Deuteronomy: “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not put off doing what you promised; the LORD will hold you to your vow, and it is a sin not to keep it” (Deuteronomy 23:21 GNB). Taken together, these passages remind us that God takes such things seriously.
However, these admonitions are not exclusive to the Old Testament…
“Above all, my friends, do not use an oath when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Say only ‘Yes’ when you mean yes, and ‘No’ when you mean no, and then you will not come under God’s judgment” (James 5:12 GNB).
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV).
As one commentator adds, “This is not a disparaging statement about marriage, but a disparaging comment about making a vow in Christ’s name and not keeping it (i.e., as divorce does also).” (1)
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, [1 Timothy 5:11] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL09/VOL09_05.html