“I don’t often think of myself as a widow.”
She told me this when someone referred to her as a widow. Her husband died young and she opted to not remarry. She still hasn’t as of the time of this writing. Financially, she was okay. She wasn’t “old”. In many ways, she didn’t fit the stereotype of “widow”.
Yet, her husband whom she loved dearly, had gone to Heaven long before she anticipated. This Godly woman taught me a lot about grieving for those who have been promoted to Heaven.
She comes to mind as we turn our attention to the next section of Paul’s first letter to Timothy from the Bible. The Apostle Paul has been giving instruction to young Timothy on how he is to regard various types of people within the church family. He continues that topic in today’s passage: 1 Timothy 5:3-8.
3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:3-8
New International Version
This is where the Bible demonstrates how practical it is to everyday life. Timothy had to administer to the congregation(s) in Ephesus and he was apparently running into difficulty determining where to prioritize helping of widows. After all, whether it’s in the 1st or 21st century: there are only so many resources to go around.
There were two qualities widows needed to possess to gain the care of the congregation.
First, there was no one else to take care of them. In the first century world Paul and Timothy were living in, a widow was among the most destitute in their culture. Unless they were already wealthy upon the death of their husband, they were in dire straits.
The second requirement was they were practicing Christians. This is dicey in today’s culture where we’re so afraid to “offend” someone. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Timothy in the 1st century either. The widows he was to lead the church to support were practicing Christians and not unbelievers.
Verse 8 serves as the underlying motivation for these instructions—especially about providing for your family. Scripture consistently references our respect and care for our parents. While we do not lose our salvation based on how we treat our parents, it is evidence of our changed lives in Jesus when we do care for them.
Jesus told us to care for those who are less fortunate than us. If we cannot care for those who are our own “flesh and blood”, why would we ever care for those who are not? It is our love for each other demonstrating to the world that we’re disciples of Jesus (cf. John 13:34-35).
There are widows among us in every congregation. Today, we don’t find the extreme financial needs as they did in the 1st century. I’m not saying they do not exist at all, they certainly do. I’m simply saying our system of life insurance and wealth in the Western world has certainly changed some of these financial needs.
Scripture is clear what to do in the case of financial needs, but don’t other needs exist as well? I know many widows (and widowers too!) struggle with loneliness. To go from time spent with a spouse (sometimes for fifty years or more) to an empty house can be sickeningly quiet.
Look around your fellowship of believers and see them. Then do something about it. Go spend some time. Take them out to lunch. Encourage them. Love them. Show them they are not alone.
Even if they do not need financial support (and some definitely do), we must be careful to give “proper recognition”.
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Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.
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