Thank you my dear friend for this important question. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” It would be difficult and probably wrong for me to be overly black and white with my response to this question, as I believe that each situation must be considered individually. However, I want to reassure you that we have a loving and merciful God, who truly understands what it is to live in this scene, seeing that our Lord Jesus once walked where we walk. Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father, and He knows well the sorrows of this life, and offers help: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:15-16; see also Psalms 103:13-14). Thus, I believe that if a Christian man becomes disabled and is therefore unable to care for his family, whether that be wife and dependent children, or elderly parents, 1 Timothy 5:8 does not condemn such a one. The concern here is more a matter of the heart/attitude of the believer, and not of his physical capabilities.

Now, I think that we’ll want to appreciate the context of 1 Timothy 5 in trying to understand what is truly being related here. I believe that this chapter constitutes specific instructions to Timothy regarding believers in the church, and their testimony to the world. I believe William MacDonald states the case well in his Bible Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8: “The seriousness of failing to provide for one’s own relatives, and especially for those of one’s own immediate household, is emphasized here. It constitutes a denial of the faith. The Christian faith consistently maintains that those who are true believers should care for one another. When a Christian fails to do this, he denies by his actions the very truths which Christianity teaches. Such a person is worse than an unbeliever for the simple reason that many unbelievers show loving care for their own relatives. Also, a Christian can thus bring reproach on the name of the Lord in a way that an unbeliever cannot do.”

Again, this chapter relates to how the Christians should conduct themselves, seeing that we represent Christ before the world. If a Christian, through laziness or selfishness refuses to fulfill his responsibilities to his family, whether disabled or not, that one sets a very bad example to the world, and this may result in non-believers scorning the church and the things of the Lord.  This poor attitude, I believe, would be what 1 Timothy 5:8 would condemn, again whether a person is disabled or not. Colossians 3:23,24 speaks of the proper attitude for Christians with regard to work, or whatever they apply themselves to, remembering that our actions reflect on the church and on the Head of the church, Christ Jesus.

But again I say, I believe that our Lord Jesus knows our hearts, and He will not condemn us for that over which we have no control. He will provide grace and mercy to help in times of need when we come to Him in prayer. He knows what is best for His children on this earth, and whatever our lot in this world, He would call us to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  We also read the words of the Apostle Paul in this same epistle: “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Now, I pray that my response to you is comforting, and if you or a loved one has experienced a life changing disability, I do understand that this is very difficult; more than that, the Lord Jesus understands it as well. I myself have been a Christian for 47 years, and yet, just after coming to Christ in faith for salvation, I received a diagnosis of progressive blindness. I was quite shattered at first, given that I would need to change careers, and certainly the prospects of getting a job did not at all seem certain to me at the time. I was married when I became blind, and this whole business tried my faith to the utmost. But God in His amazing Grace did provide me with a job and a means to take care of my family. But, even if He does not do this in the life of every Christian, I do believe that He can bless, and that He will care for us. In my own case, given that He gave me the opportunity to work, I think it would have been sin for me to pass that up and to depend on others for my family’s needs. But, there are certainly those who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot work. I do not believe at all that these should be scorned by the body of believers, nor do I believe that Christ scorns them. I do believe that Christ Jesus will bless His own who have faith in Him (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20). And, if you or a loved one finds yourself in the situation of being unable to work due to a disability, just know that you are precious in the sight of our Lord; the Lord Jesus knows your situation, and He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Christ Jesus once came to this earth and died on the cross that you might be saved, and that you might be in heaven with Him one day.  I pray that you will fully trust in Him for salvation, and for His loving care throughout your sojourn on this earth.  (SF)  (564.5)