Our Christian faith and the Christian principles which proceed from that faith are to be lived out in our relationships. We are to love God and love our neighbor. The one must precede the other. If we love God, we are equipped to love our neighbor, and our family members are our nearest neighbors. So our piety must begin at home. It is sometimes easier to love those people with whom we have little contact. We can wave quite cheerfully out the car window at our grumpy neighbor. But loving our child or husband or parent who is grumpy is another matter.
1 Timothy 5:4 tells us that if anyone has a mother or grandmother who is a widow, they should “first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” We often look for “ministry” that is far away, across the world, or helping people we do not know. And, of course, there is a place for such ministry in the church. But this passage tells us that we ought to keep our priorities straight. Before we start trying to export our piety, we had better have a goodly stock of it in our own homes. Show your piety at home. How? By taking care of your aging mother or grandmother. But that may require around-the-clock care, patience, sacrifice, diligence, time, effort, and money. Exactly. It may not be glamorous or exciting. It may rule out your other plans. But God says this is what we are to “first learn” before we seek to show our piety in other places.
Taking care of your aging parents, particularly your mother and grandmother, is what Paul calls repaying your parents, and he singles this action out as “good and acceptable before God.” Want to know how to please God? Take care of your aging mom. And Paul has this to say to those who don’t: “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” (vs. 8). This is serious stuff.
Are you wondering how to exercise charity, piety? Are you wondering what you should be doing? Here is the obvious place to start. I know that the widow herself can be uncooperative. But God can overcome obstacles by means of His grace. We ought to all be preparing for the time when we can repay our parents and provide a home for them. Then we can “learn” to show piety at home.