How Can a Christian Be Worse than an Unbeliever?
February 2005

How Can a Christian Be Worse than an Unbeliever?

Meditation on 1 Timothy 5:8

Paul Tautges

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 5:8).

This verse ought to arrest us. It should stop us in our tracks and force us to ponder its meaning. How could the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist, say a Christian could be worse than a non-Christian? What did he mean?

Before we tackle that question, I think we must be reminded of a very basic biblical principle: Work is the normal means of Gods provision. The Bible is clear that God is the provider of our needs (Matthew 6:26-34; Psalm 127:2; 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:17 and others), but it is equally clear that it is not His normal practice to simply drop food or money out of the sky. Rather, His ordained, regular means of provision is a four-letter word some Christian men find offensiveW O R K. The book of Proverbs confirms this marriage of work to provision.

He who tills his land will have plenty of food,

but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty (28:19).

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich (10:4).

In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (14:23).

Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger (19:15).

From this small sampling, it should be obvious that work is the ordained means of Gods provision. This is why Proverbs also says, the way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns (15:19). In other words, the lazy, irresponsible man (and, unfortunately his wife and children) will have a very difficult life. This is a biblical truism. Therefore, it is time for Christian men everywhere to own up to the fact that providing for ones family is a major part of the responsibility of being a husband and father. Websters Dictionary defines the noun, "husband," as a householder, and the verb as, to manage economically, to provide. It is a very sad to realize that not only are some Christian men not fulfilling their biblical calling as providers, but they are not even living up to Websters definition.

The older I get, the more I admire and respect my father who, for many years, worked part-time jobs in addition to his full-time factory job in order to meet the needs of his stay-at-home wife and six children. He was not too proud to be a gas-pumping grease monkey several evenings a week in order to fulfill His duty to his family. I must also confess, the longer I am a believer the more surprised and grieved I am that there are so many Christian men who do not see this as a God-given priority, but instead find all kinds of ways to spiritualize away their duty. I have heard men boldly declare they do not believe it is Gods will they apply for this or that job because "the environment is so ungodly," or "the hours will take me away from my family," or, the list of excuses goes on and on, ad nauseum. Now, there are some areas of life where Gods will may be legitimately questioned, but there is no lack of clarity here. It is always Gods will for a Christian man to get off his sanctified rear-end and get a job.

Now, I dont want to be unnecessarily harsh. I willingly acknowledge there are times when employment may be difficult to secure and I concede there may be many factors that determine what a man chooses as his preferred employment, but at some point every man who wants to be faithful must stop being picky and just get a job (or jobs); he must look at the bills and do the math; he must surrender personal dreams and die to self; he must humble himself and be a man. Providing for ones family is a non-negotiable. It is not even up for discussion. Period.

This is why Pauls admonition to the Thessalonian believers was so strong:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10).

Pauls point is too clear to be missedeating is a privilege reserved for those who work. In other words (again!), hard work is the normal means of Gods provision. In the case of the Thessalonian church, an unhealthy preoccupation with prophecy is what prompted this part of the apostles letter. Some had gotten so excited about Jesus coming back they decided to quit their jobs and sit in their family room recliners and wait for His return. These were not men who could not work due to some physical disability that rendered them wheelchair-bound; they were men who would not work. As a result, Paul calls these irresponsible men, unruly, and in need of confrontation and, if necessary, avoidance. Thats how seriously God looks at this sin.

Now, with that in mind, lets get back to First Timothy 5:8, 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. The context reveals this statement as the conclusion of the apostles teaching regarding provision for widows in the church. In other words, if there are living relatives, they are responsible to meet her needs, reserving the churchs benevolence list for those who are widows indeed. This is the verses immediate application, which warrants another newsletter article altogether. But for now, in light of the overwhelming biblical evidence that work is the normal means of Gods provision, which rests on the shoulders of husbands, the phrase also has a broader application to the man who will not be a faithful provider. In light of this, I think Paul means at least three things by the phrase, worse than an unbeliever.

First, an unfaithful Christian man is worse because even non-believers understand provision comes through work. So, a Christian man who does not faithfully care for his family is worse than an unbeliever in that he acts like he does not know this biblical truth.

Second, an unfaithful Christian man is worse because he sends a contradictory witness to the world. He claims, "God is my provider," but will not obey Gods simple command to be the earthly means of His provision. Therefore, unbelievers who faithfully provide for their families end up being better witnesses of Gods creative order than Christian men who do not.

Third, an unfaithful Christian man is worse because his example teaches his children that lazy, irresponsible Christians are the ones who really "trust God." Thus he distorts the meaning and picture of biblical faith and worsens the work ethic of the next generation.

In conclusion, in case I have not been blunt enough thus far, let me say to every man reading this: providing for our families is one of the non-negotiables of biblical leadership and what it means to be a husband. It is a duty we cannot, and must not shirk. By responsibly caring for our families, we are fulfilling Gods will for our lives and being faithful witnesses for God in this perverse generation. Do not be worse than an unbeliever!

Pastor Paul

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Copyright 2005, Paul Tautges

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