We all have limitations. A condition of limited ability; a defect or failing. Our particular limitations could be alack oftime, money, energy, ability, or experience; or the unwelcome constraints of life circumstances and obligations. Whatever our limitations, many of us may wish we could get rid of a few, if not all of them.
But let’s not forget: God is the one who lovingly limits us. The Bible gives us clear evidence that He controls every detail of our lives (Job 14:5, Jer. 10:23, Dan 4:34). In his wisdom, he determines what we can and cannot do. And we must be careful not to be so preoccupied with what we can’t do that we miss out on all that we can do to love, serve, and please Jesus.
In Mark 14, we read the story of one woman who did not let her limitations stop her from expressing her love for Jesus. The setting is a dinner party that was being held in Jesus’ honor, just a few days before his crucifixion. While Jesus was reclining at the table, a woman (John 12:3 identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus) approached him and poured very expensive perfume over his head. The disciples were indignant, viewing such an act as a complete waste of money. But Jesus ordered the disciples to leave her alone and commended Mary’s deed. Then he says of her: “She did what she could” (v.8).
Mary may have wished to do more for Jesus. But Mary didn’t allow her limited resources or abilities to hold her back. Instead, she did what she could. Whatever our God-given limitations, they do not hinder us from serving our Savior. In fact, our limitations are often the very means God uses to propel us into fruitful service. Consider Fanny Crosby. Blind from the age of six weeks, she became the author of more than 8000 hymns, many of which we sing today. Of her blindness, she said: “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
Fanny Crosby didn’t begrudge the limitation of her blindness but deemed it a gift that nourished and fostered her hymn writing. Perhaps Mary’s example played a part in shaping Fanny’s attitude toward her limitations, for on her tombstone she requested these words: “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”
Like Mary and Fanny, let’s do what we can to serve our Savior. Let’s regard each of our limitations as a gift—a special provision from God for fruitful service. All he asks of us is that we do what we can, by his grace. And when we do what we can, he has one more thing to say. It’s the same thing he said about Mary. “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Oh my, how marvelous is that? To think that when we simply do what we can, we are doing something beautiful to the One who did the most beautiful thing ever to us—dying on the cross for our sins! How can we not, with gratitude and joy, do what we can?
The greeting sections of New Testament epistles fire my curiosity. We are given tantalizing morsels of information, hardly the full back-story. But if we look at these verses like archeologists searching for clues, we can discover a surprising amount of truth for our edification and encouragement. Take Romans 16, for example. You can’t read this passage without appreciating the vital role that women played in the ministry of the early church. Nine of the twenty-four greetings are to women, and their efforts are hardly peripheral or tangential. These women are at the nerve center of ministry in the local church, playing a vital role in its mission to preach the gospel. Four women are particularly interesting, for Paul greets them each in the same way:
“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v. 6)
“Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa” (v. 12)
“Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord” (v. 12)
Imagine it. You gather for the regular assembly of God’s people, and at the conclusion of this soaring theological letter, Paul greets ‘lil old you? I wonder what these women felt when they heard their names read aloud. Did they realize that they were going to be immortalized in Holy Scripture? Here, at least, are two lessons we can learn from what Paul does and doesn’t tell us about these four women.
Our Work Matters More Than We Think
Most of the time, our work for the Lord seems unimportant and insignificant. Especially when it seems to produce so little in the way of measurable success. We’re called on to organize an outreach event, but it’s poorly attended. We give hours to counseling a woman who decides she wants to be mentored by someone else. We make yet another meal for yet another new mom, but it’s just what everyone expects us to do. And so we measure our service the way that we measure everything else—by results, or by how fulfilled it makes us feel, or by the gratitude we receive. And frankly, it’s discouraging.
But Paul doesn’t commend these women for reaching certain numbers goals, or for their successful organization of the largest church event in local church history, or even for the warm fuzzy feeling of fulfillment they derive from their efforts. That’s not how Paul measures gospel success. Here, at the end of his soaring theological treatise, he commends four ordinary women for one thing: working hard. The verb here implies “strenuous exertion.” These women spent all their energy to further the gospel mission. We don’t know how much or little these women accomplished in the way of “measurable” earthly results, but we do know that they were wildly successful. They received one of the greatest honors in human history: to be commended, by name, in the eternal Word of God. Now that’s worth working hard for!
So if you’ve felt discouraged of late; if you’ve started to wonder if your work in the church is a grand waste of time and talent—take heart. Whether or not others recognize your efforts, God does. He called out these four women, and he calls you out today. Be encouraged and don’t give up. Keep working hard for the Lord. Or, as the author to the Hebrews encourages us: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints as you still do” (6:10).
Our Work Matters Less than We Think
Often, it can seem like people only notice the women in the church who are gifted in public ways. The rest of us do our work quietly in the background, with little fanfare. But here in Romans 16, Paul not only draws attention to Phoebe and Prisca who were wealthy and influential but also to sisters Tryphaena and Tryphosa who were former slaves, freedwomen. In an ironical side-note, Tryphaena and Tryphosa’s names mean “Dainty and Delicate.” You have to wonder if Paul smiled to himself as he wrote: “Greet those strenuous workers in the Lord, Dainty and Delicate.” The point is: nothing in our background, no physical or spiritual weakness, no lack of experience or gifting hinders us from working hard in for the Lord. We are all eligible for the commendation these women received. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” said Paul in another one of his letters, “and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10). May the same be said of us.
But all too often we get caught up in what “our role” is in the church, whether or not we have a title or a position or, as we like to call it, “a place to serve.” We get locked in petty rivalries with other women, comparing and obsessing about who gets recognized or utilized more. Paul’s greetings graciously redirect our gaze to the right reasons for ministry. Like Mary, we should work hard “for you”—our work is to be out of love for the people of God. And like the sisters and “beloved Persis” our work is to be “in the Lord”— for the glory of our Savior. These women did not strive for position or honor, but they served their hearts out for the greatest cause in human history: the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so should we. Let us follow their example and remember that the cause we are working for is far more important than the kind of work we do for that cause. Let us be willing, eager in fact, to labor strenuously in a lowly position in the church.
It might be easy to skim the conclusion to the book of Romans, assuming that the important stuff got covered in the first fifteen chapters. But really, the book of Romans closes with a pressing question for each one of us: Are you working hard for the Lord? If Paul sent a letter to your church today, are you the kind of woman he would greet and thank? May we unhesitatingly seek the glory and honor these women were striving for, simply to be known as hard workers for the Lord.
“In a recent survey…ninety-four percent responded that they were waiting for something to take place. There were a variety of things that people were waiting for—waiting to get married, waiting to get a good job, waiting for a new job, waiting to have kids, waiting for the kids to grow up, etc. But the predominant answer was that people live their lives waiting for something else.” ~William Barcley
Our “something else” is whatever we are thinking of right now. Waiting for it to happen feels like captivity. We try our hardest to break out. We bang on the walls, hoping for a hidden opening, a secret doorway. Finally, we sit down and look to heaven and ask: Why? How long? Why does the life I’m waiting for never seem to come?
“If you ask, ‘Why is this or that happening?’ no light may come, for ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God’ (Deuteronomy 29:29); but if you ask, ‘How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?’ there will always be an answer.”
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
As one man said, the Christian may walk in darkness, but he need never wander. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes is the voice of the Lord behind us saying: “this is the way, walk in it: be joyful, do good” (3:12). Don’t live your life like the ninety-four percent, waiting for something else. Do good now.
“While there is much we can’t know” admits Zach Eswine, “the Preacher says that the way forward in our seasons is not found in rehearsing what we do not know, but in remaining faithful to what we do.”
It’s unexpected, but the way to quiet the questions, to find contentment and purpose in waiting, is to “do good”:
“[C]ontentment comes by performing the work of our circumstances…The question the contented Christian asks is, what is the duty of my present circumstances? And carrying out that duty is vital both to Christian faithfulness and to Christian contentment. Maybe we are not where we want to be. There is nothing sinful about desiring and praying for difficult circumstances to change. But we need to seek how we can serve Christ where we are.” ~William Barcley
Serving Christ “where we are” isn’t a consolation prize; it is the secret of contentment in waiting. It is the key that unlocks the cell of unhappiness, our flashlight in the fog of confusing circumstances. When we do good, right here, right now, while we are waiting, we will wake up one day to discover that we aren’t so much waiting anymore as living.
Be a Do-Gooder
Doing good has fallen on hard times. In fact, a “do-gooder” in the English language is a pejorative term: “someone whose desire and effort to help people is regarded as wrong, annoying, useless, etc.” Ouch.
Even in reformed, Christian circles, we sometimes talk about grace as the cure for an unhealthy pressure to do good. Sadly, for many women today, this unbiblical perspective hollows out the Christian life and diminishes the full and beautiful influence of grace.
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes wants to change all that. Doing good? There is “nothing better.” As we learned last week, this is part two of our job description for life:
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (3:12-13)
Notice the happy words. Doing good is “God’s gift to man.” We are to “take pleasure in all [our] toil.” There is “nothing better” than to “do good as long as [we] live.” Catch the drift? Doing good is a good thing. It is a gift of grace.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:11, 14).
The grace that comes to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ does not deliver us from doing good, it frees and empowers us to do good. God’s “gift to man” is the strength, desire, and determination to do good as long as we live—not in order to earn our salvation but in response to the grace of God.
“The gospel creates an affection for God that drives us to do good works that serve others and please God” explains Matt Perman. “Embracing the truth that God accepts us apart from good works is the precise thing that causes us to excel in good works.”
“Realizing that we are wholly and completely accepted by God apart from our works through faith in Christ results in massive and radical action for good because it results in great love and joy for God. As Jesus said, ‘He who is forgiven little loves little’ (Luke 7:47), whereas those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:41-43).” ~Matt Perman
There is no tug of war between grace and good works: grace motivates good works. “The more a person counts as loss his own righteousness and lays hold by faith of the righteousness of Christ, the more he will be motivated to live and work for Christ” writes Jerry Bridges.
No matter what “the time” or season in our lives, doing good is the Christ-empowered response to grace.
The Good We Are to Do
The good we are to do is the good God has given us to do. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
The Creator of galaxies and ocean depths has designed and fashioned each of us individually, called us by name, redeemed us from our sins, and then personally prepared good works for each of us to do.
Scripture tells us we are to be devoted to good works (1 Tim. 5:10), zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14), have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), adorn ourselves with good works (Tit. 2:9-10), and stir up one another for good works (Heb. 10:24). The Bible gets pretty enthusiastic about good works, wouldn’t you say?
Life in Christ is like a long, happy, workday—with God handing out the assignments. He’s distributed our tasks throughout the New Testament letters. Here’s just a few:
· Bring up children.
· Show hospitality.
· Contribute to the needs of the saints.
· Be constant in prayer.
· Teach what is good.
· Love your husband.
· Love your children.
· Work at home.
· Be kind.
· Show honor.
· Love one another.
· Serve the saints.
· Care for the afflicted.
(Rom. 12:10-13, 1 Tim. 5:10, Tit. 2:3-5)
Carpooling kids, hosting a new family for spaghetti after church, driving a friend to the doctor, washing the sheets, pulling the weeds, praying for church members, greeting our husband with a kiss and a smile—these and many more are the do-gooding God has given us to do.
“Buthow can I possibly do all these things?” we ask, panicky at the sight of a to-do list in Scripture more than two or three items long. Before anyone begins to feel faint, allow me to pass the smelling salts: grace-motivated good works aren’t overwhelming.
God has not called all of us to do all of the good works. He has prepared certain good works for each of us to do. Good works are not a decathlon (four runs, three jumps and three throws); they are a walking event. They are the super-simple, nothing better, gifted by God, path to contentment.
The Glamour of Doing Good
Like workday tasks, our do-good list is full of menial, manual labor. But we carry it out in the joyful company of other Christians, for the sake of Jesus Christ. What makes good works glamorous is the God we do them for.
We were created “in Christ Jesus for good works”! We are “his workmanship” so we might work for him. Half-filled cereal-bowls, inboxes full of emails, and lists of works cited take on a glow of glory when we receive them as a gift from God.
If doing good feels below our pay grade, we’ve failed to grasp that it is—in actuality—far above what we deserve. By grace rebellious sinners have been forgiven and called to work for the Savior of the world. We get our assignments directly from Jesus himself. We are in his service. How can we not, “take pleasure in [our] toil” when we consider who we are working for?
“Does God ask us to do what is beneath us?” wonders Elisabeth Ellliot. “This question will never trouble us again if we consider the Lord of heaven taking a towel and washing feet.”
“Every one of us has a line of duty marked out for us by God. For most human beings, for most of history, there has been little choice available. We tend to forget this in a time when the options seem limitless and when ‘what one does’ usually means specifically his money-earning capacities. Duty, however, includes whatever we ought to do for others—make a bed, give someone a ride to church, mow a lawn, clean a garage, paint a house. It is often possible to ‘get out of’ work like that. Nobody is paying us. It simply needs to be done, and if we don’t do it, nobody will. But the nature of the work changes when we see that it is God who marks out this line of duty for us. It is service to Him. When we see Him, we may say, ‘Lord, when did I ever mow Your lawn? When did I iron Your clothes?’ He will answer, ‘When you did it for one of the least of my children, you did it for me.’” ~Elisabeth Elliot
The point of good works is to point back to the Savior: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Funny thing is, life doesn’t feel so much like waiting when you are doing good for Christ.
What To Do Right Now
When we ask: “What should I do with my life?” there will always be an answer. And it’s usually right in front of us. Do the next good work. Then do the next one. And so on, and you will find the answer to your question.
“When the unknown taunts your mind within the season you find yourself,” suggests Zach Eswine, “give yourself to the next thing in the place you are. Our way forward more often than not is found where we are.”
“Some of us are wondering what God’s will is for our lives. Among all the things we do not know, we start with what we do know…. When it comes to our tending our lot with our spouse and family, our work, our food, and our place, God has already told us that he approves of this use of time.” ~Zach Eswine
“Do good” is a Christian’s true north. No matter where we are, how confusing the landscape, how unsure of what we are to do next or where we are to go, we can point our compass needle toward “do good” and move confidently in that direction. God approves.
“Students often ask me how to find out what God’s will is. I tell them the will of God today for them is to study! That’s not what they want to hear, but that is surely an important part of God’s will for students. They must not cut classes, plagiarize on their papers, cheat on exams, treat the professor disrespectfully, or shirk their duty to their roommate.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Students should study. Moms should mother. Employees should be employed.
If you are a mom with young children at home, your duties are in front of you. Sure, they are arduous but they are not confusing. Love. Serve. Sacrifice. Discipline. Clean. Instruct. Smile. Hug. Or if your job is to go to a job, then go. Drive courteously, work diligently, speak graciously. Love your neighbor. Give thanks in all circumstances. Do good. Be joyful. It’s that simple.
Here is the cure for restlessness, for the discontent of our age and of our hearts. Good works aren’t far flung, they are right in front of you. “Every assignment is measured,” writes Elisabeth Elliot. “As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.” And, might I add, happier.
In fact “be joyful and do good” works backwards, in a way. Doing good makes us joyful. Not happy in our own goodness, but joyful in serving our good God. And when we are joyful we aren’t really waiting anymore, we’re living.
What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~Martin Luther
In our frenetic society we are already so busy with homework, jobs, and families, that the five good works in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 may feel overwhelming.
But we must remember that Paul was talking about what these widows had accomplished throughout their lifetime, not all at once. Giving themselves wholeheartedly to good works no doubt looked different at various times in their lives.
For moms of small children, you are applying this verse every day, all day. As my husband often says “no one has a harder job than a mom with young kids.” This statement felt true to me when I had little ones, and now that I am watching my daughters mother their children, it rings more true than ever.
You may not be the first to show up in a crisis or do the most hospitality, but you are washing little feet all day as you humbly serve your family. I pray you know God’s pleasure in your faithful service. It is pleasing to him, and even though no one else may see, “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).
I also know women who are eager to do good works, but despair because of limitations such as sickness, aging, a disability or a crisis. If you feel, “put on the shelf” as Charles Spurgeon vividly described it, then take his advice and pray for others. For there is “no greater kindness” you can do for someone. You may not be able to serve others in physically demanding ways, but you can still bring honor to the Savior through good works.
We all have different capacities and gifts, and so we must resist the temptation to compare. This is not a competition. Every woman who sincerely serves the Savior gives glory to God. It all comes down to one question: Do I strive for a reputation of good works in order to reflect the Savior’s Good Work?
And remember this: When all is said and done, after we have spent and been spent doing good works, we must, as one wise man once said, make a heap of all our good works and all our bad works and flee them both to Christ.
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Tim. 5:9-10)
What are gospel-glorifying good works exactly? Jerry Bridges calls them “deliberate deeds that are helpful to others.” They are tangible acts of kindness that serve and bless others and proclaim our Savior’s goodness.
In 1 Timothy 5:9–10 Paul gives counsel to Timothy about widows, but in so doing, sets the standard for godly women by describing a lifestyle of self-sacrifice. The godly woman grasps the sobering fact that “God’s reputation is at stake in [her] public profession” of godliness.
She desires to be known for good works because she longs for God’s Good Work to be known.
Every Christian woman should strive to have a reputation for good works. There are no good works specialists. This is not for the gifted or enthusiastic few. We all must raise our hands to volunteer. All of us can do good works, for God has called all of us to do good works.
And as Jerry Bridges put it, good works are “deliberate.” We don’t fall into them or stumble upon them. We must choose to practice good works. In First Timothy, the apostle Paul provides us five categories of good works.
These five examples of good works in 1 Timothy 5 are not exhaustive, nor are they to be applied exhaustively. But they characterize the woman who has a reputation for good works. To get a picture of this woman of good works let’s look briefly at each example.
Brought Up Children. The heart’s desire of a godly woman is to raise her children to honor and serve the Savior. To that end, a mother should give herself to bringing up her children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). A woman who doesn’t bear children can be a godly influence on children in her church and community, and care for orphans. Bringing up children to serve the Lord is precious to our Savior who said “let the little children come to me” (Matt. 19:14).
Shown Hospitality. This is a home-based good work. To show hospitality means “meeting the needs of others through the use of one’s resources, specifically in and through the context of the home.” The godly woman practices hospitality by having people into her home, giving refuge and refreshment, and by taking meals and resources from her home to others.
“The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God,” writes John Piper. The hospitable woman desires to reflect Christ’s hospitality. Regardless of the size of her home or her budget she wants to extend to others the unmerited love and grace that she first received from the Savior.
Washed the Feet of the Saints. Foot washing was an essential but menial task in ancient times, as everyone’s feet were either muddy or dusty from the roads. It was a chore usually reserved for household servants. So to wash the feet of the saints meant to be a humble servant, to take on the tasks no one else wanted to do. In other words, the godly woman is willing to take on the dirty jobs, the lowly jobs, and the unattractive jobs. When we serve others, we follow the example of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet: “For she has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said (Matt. 26:10). And so he says to us when we humbly serve the saints.
Cared for the Afflicted. The godly woman is like a nurse in a hospital, on call, ready to help the suffering—whether they are afflicted physically, mentally, or emotionally. To do this good work we must draw near to that which is raw, ugly, difficult, and painful. In so doing we properly reflect our Savior’s reputation as one who is “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3), “near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18), “comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:4), and is “a very present help in time of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
Devoted to Every Good Work. If you had to describe her in a sentence, you would say that the godly woman “has at all times thrown her whole heart into good deeds.” We are to, as someone once said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
Here are a few summer time activity ideas from the Apostle Paul. Even though these were originally written about a specific group of women, they should describe us all:
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Tim. 5:9-10)
These good works don’t comprise a checklist; they describe the godly woman’s character. She has a reputation for good works.
But some may be concerned—if we focus on good works do we run the risk of taking something away from the glory of the gospel?
Scripture says the opposite: good works bring glory to God and adorn the gospel.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” the Savior instructed in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:16).
When people see our good works: “They will ask, ‘What is it? Why are these people so different in every way…?” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “And they will be driven to the only real explanation which is that we are the people of God, children of God…We have become reflectors of Christ.”
In fact, in 1 Timothy 2:10, God tells us that good works are “proper for women who profess godliness.” Robert Spinney explains that this phrase means:
[T]o make a public announcement or to convey a message loudly. Our lives make public announcements. The godly woman’s public announcement must consist of good works, not questionable clothing….The implication here is that both good works and improper clothing have a Godward element: one provokes men to praise God while the other encourages men to demean Him….God’s reputation is at stake in our public professions. God’s glory is more clearly seen when we abound in good works, but it is obscured and misunderstood when we make public announcements with improper clothing.
Good works do not distract from the gospel or undermine the gospel, they are essential to our gospel proclamation. They promote Christ’s reputation and they bring glory to God.
Doing gospel-centered good works means that we don’t rely on those good works for our righteousness before God or our forgiveness from him. We are accepted before God only because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We are able to stand before God only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
We do good works, not in order to receive the gospel, but because we have received the gospel. Let’s consider what specific ways we can reflect Christ this summer!
“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”1 Timothy 5:9-10
Washing the feet of the saints. How do I perform this good work? All of the other good works in this verse seem realistic and doable; but bathing a fellow-Christian’s dirty, smelly feet seems a little outlandish.
Actually, it’s really not all that peculiar. And most likely we are carrying out this good work already. All we need is an explanation of what foot-washing really means in order to know if we are fulfilling this task.
This is where biblical commentators can help us out, and Pastor John MacArthur does just that in his commentary on First Timothy (p. 208). He provides both the context and clarification for a widow having “washed the feet of the saints:”
That menial task was the duty of slaves. Since the roads were either dusty or muddy, guests entering a house had their feet washed. Paul does not necessarily mean that she actually did that herself each time. The menial task of washing the feet spoke metaphorically of humility (Jn. 13:5-17). The requirement, then, stresses that a widow have a humble servant’s heart. She gives her life in lowly service to those in need.
So, we see that “washing the feet of the saints” is a willingness to give ourselves to any menial task that would serve another Christian in need. That’s the idea behind this particular good work. It involves doing the humblest, most menial, and sometimes even downright dirty tasks in service of others. It could be making a bed for a person who is ill or scrubbing toilets for a woman with an extra-heavy workload, or changing a diaper to help out a mother with small children.
We should never think we are above doing these “foot-washing” kind of jobs. Neither should we underestimate their significance. Even the grubbiest of tasks are holy, if done for the glory of Jesus Christ. After all, didn’t our Savior Himself stoop to wash the feet of his disciples? We should consider it an honor to do dirty jobs for Him.
Our Aunt Betsy (Ricucci) is our dad’s sister and one of the most encouraging people you will ever meet. On Sunday at church she passed on some very encouraging motherhood advice to me, and then followed up with an email yesterday. It was too good not to post. While I wish all of you could be in the same church with Aunt Betsy to receive her specific and godly encouragement each week, I hope every mother who is seeking to diligently teach her children to obey will receive these encouraging words as “just for you.”
I just wanted to clarify my quick encouragement to you yesterday. I had seen Janelle earlier and encouraged her as a mom and she said I should tell you too, so I tried!
As your mom said to me multiple times when I was a young mom: Don’t grow weary of the well doing on behalf of your wee ones! Every time you deny or disappoint their selfishness, no matter their response, is a win for you and ultimately a win for them! Don’t evaluate your mothering success by their response to your training initially, but by the fact that true biblical love looks out for their ultimate best interest. And their best interest is not to have selfishness rewarded but denied and overcome. (And isn’t that true of us too?!) So just know, when you must say “no” for the kiddos best good and their response may be wailing, you can have a biblical perspective that some sin has been wounded but their souls ultimately helped! This is true, biblical, sacrificial love that truly considers the greatest good of others. And those others are the precious lives of your children!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal.6:9 This verse has always encouraged me so much! The promise of reaping a good harvest is not dependent upon the perfections of the good we do (we fail so often don’t we?!) but simply in not giving up. And I must depend upon His faithfulness to not give up. But, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I Thess. 5:24
May God reward your faithful mothering with an awareness of His nearness, His working, His goodness and His faithfulness above all else.
As we learned yesterday, the godly woman is to be devoted to good works.
Now, by good works, Paul doesn’t mean actions that make us acceptable to God. We are only able to stand before God because of the righteousness of Christ. Rather, these good works are what Jerry Bridges calls, “deliberate deeds that are helpful to others” (The Practice of Godliness, p. 232). They are acts of kindness that are evidence of our salvation.
And the woman who is devoted to good works reflects glory back to God. As John Stott explains, “It is when people see these good works that they will glorify God, for they embody the good news of his love which we proclaim” (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 62).
Now we haven’t been left to guess what good works we are supposed to do. God has already given us a “to do list.”