Widow…I don’t like that word. It makes me think of spiders. I don’t like spiders. Who came up with that word anyway? It sounds so…so…depressing. I’ve tried to adapt the attitude to not gripe about something without striving to come up with a better solution. But after stretching my brain for quite awhile I could not think of a better word.
I know this word (notice I’m not using it!) has been around at least a few thousand years because it’s in the Bible quite a few times. It comes from the Latin word dividere which means to divide and can also mean vacant, to be empty of, void. After becoming one myself, I’d say that is a pretty accurate definition. This is a club no good woman ever wants to join. When I consider the meaning of this word, it’s no wonder it sounds so bad!
I have learned so much from reading the Epistles of Paul. There is so much wisdom and practical help for Christian living in them! Thanks to my parents I can never remember not regularly attending church. I’ve heard lots of sermons from I Timothy and I’ve read it many times myself, but shamefully, for years I glossed over the passages about widows because they didn’t apply to me. In these past 8 months I’ve taken a much closer look at what God says about widows and I’d like to share with you some surprises I found.
Even in the early church there was a concern for the widows. Evidently, there were many widows who needed help with their daily provisions. The Grecians complained that the Hebrews were neglecting to provide for the widows (Acts 6:1-7). Jesus’ disciples met and explained that they could not quit preaching and praying to care for the widows and suggested other men be appointed to help meet these needs. So seven honest, Holy Spirit-filled, wise men were chosen to fill in this gap.
About thirty years later, Paul writes a letter to his young pastor friend, Timothy, and informs him on how to conduct the business of the young church. Included in this letter is a lot of wise counsel in dealing with the widows (I Timothy 5:1-16).
First of all, he says to give honor to the “widows indeed.” Hmmm. Is that opposed to the fake widows? I scratched my head at first but Paul goes on to define a “widow indeed.” It is a woman who has no family. If the woman has children, grandchildren or other family, it is first their responsibility to care for their widow. Paul says,
let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable to God. (1 Timothy 5:4)
Webster’s Dictionary defines piety as fidelity (faithful) to natural obligations.
It is the churches responsibility to help the widows, but were you aware that there are 3 requirements of the widow? So the church would not be unduly burdened or taken advantage of, there were some guidelines to be followed.
Can I stop right here and comment?
I often hear “the church should….” and it is followed by a thousand different opinions. Jesus defines “the church” has His followers. Those who have repented of their sins, denied themselves and taken up their cross and are following HIM. It isn’t a building made of wood or bricks. It isn’t a place with an unlimited amount of money piled up in a bank that should be given to anyone who ever asks for it. “The church” is believers and followers of Jesus. If you are a believer, YOU are the church.
(Deep breath…) Awww, glad to get that off my chest. I’d like to insert here that the local body of believers of which I am a part of have overwhelmed me with love, concern, emotional, financial, and practical support. They are obeying this passage in such a beautiful way.
Anyway, back to the topic…. There are 3 requirements for the church to help a widow. She must …
- Be desolate which means alone with no family to help.
- Trust in God. (obviously serious about her walk with God)
- Continually, be earnestly and humbly talking and listening to God night and day.
Are you surprised by that? I was. Is it reasonable? Absolutely! Paul goes on to say that if the widow is living indulgently, she is spiritually dead. II Timothy 3:16 says,
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The Bible is God’s Word. So when Paul wrote these letters that are recorded in the Bible, counseling the early church, they are God’s words also.
God wants widows, their families, and the church to understand their responsibilities so they would do the right thing.
In verse 8, Paul says if families refuse to take care of their own widows, especially in their immediate family, they are worse than unbelievers who don’t even know God.
If you haven’t been surprised by any of this so far, this might be what gets you. Paul said in verses 9 and 10 that a widow should be at least 60 years old to qualify for help from the church! She should have also been a faithful wife and performed good works such as…
- brought up children
- lodged strangers
- washed the saints’ feet
- relieved the afflicted
- diligently followed every good work
Quite a tall order, wouldn’t you agree? Here are some of my conclusions about this passage…
- Just because I’m a widow, doesn’t relieve me from my responsibilities to other widows. I have more empathy now for other women in this stage in life, as I should. I need to use what I’ve experienced to extend compassion to them.
- This should be a wake up call to EVERY married woman. A woman never knows when she may suddenly become a member of this unfortunate club. It’s best she lives a faithful, serious life for her Lord so she can feel His comfort and qualify for the needed support from her family and church at such a difficult time.
- I need to be careful to not expect the church body I belong to, to meet needs God expects me to meet.
- God wants me to use the resources He provides me responsibly.
- I should welcome accountability.
Are you curious about the reason for the senior citizen discount? Paul explains why a widow should be at least 60 years old to qualify for help from the church. He warns young widows of the snares of early widowhood. He advises them to be careful to live above reproach, stay true to Jesus, and not follow the devil and the world’s ways. He listed several temptations a young widow might struggle with…
- She might get impatient and marry outside of God’s will
- Have too much free time on her hands
- Become a busybody
Paul sums things up in verse 16…
If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve (assist) them, and let not the church be charged (burdened); that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
I know this blog is quite different from my other ones. But one of the reasons for this blog is my desire to share what God is teaching me. I hope it has given you food for thought. I would love to hear your comments. Have a blessed day!
Keep looking up,