10For good works Those qualifications which are next enumerated relate partly to honor, and partly to labor. There can be no doubt that the assemblies of widows were honorable, and highly respectable; and, therefore, Paul does not wish that any should be admitted into them, but those who had excellent attestations of the whole of their past life. Besides, they were not appointed in order to lazy and indolent inactivity, but to minister to the poor and the sick, until, being completely worn out, they should be allowed honorably to retire. Accordingly, that they may be better prepared for the discharge of their office, he wishes them to have had long practice and experience in all the duties which belong to it; such as — labor and diligence in bringing up children, hospitality, ministering to the poor, and other charitable works.
If it be now asked, Shall all that are barren be rejected, because they have never borne any children? We must reply, that Paul does not here condemn barrenness, but the daintiness of mothers, who, by refusing to endure the weariness of bringing up their children, sufficiently shew that they will be very unkind to strangers. And at the same time he holds out this as an honorable reward to godly matrons, who have not spared themselves, that they, in their turn, shall be received into the bosom of the Church in their old age.
By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, he means by the washing of the feet all the services which are commonly rendered to the saints; for at that time it was customary to “ the feet.” (92) An employment of this nature might have the appearance of being mean and almost servile; and therefore he makes use of this mark for describing females who were industrious, and far from being fastidious or dainty. What next follows relates to liberality; and, lastly, he expresses the same thing in general terms, when he says, if she hath been diligent in every good work; for here he speaks of acts of kindness.
(92) “ observance was usually administered by, or under the superintendence of, the mistress of the house; and, being in the East particularly grateful, is meant to designate, generally, kind attention to the guests.” — Bloomfield.