1 Timothy 5:3-7
3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day..
6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
In our society today more and more children are caring for their elderly parents. Because most businesses now do not offer the pensions they used to, seniors are finding it harder to afford living on their own. The cost of living keeps rising and the social security checks just don’t rise as fast. This poses big problems for those who did not do a good job saving up during their lifetime, and that is the majority of our seniors today. Fourteen percent of adults living in someone else’s home are the parents of the homeowner, up from seven percent in 1995.
At the same time, more and more adult children are living with their parents due to various reasons. Lack of jobs, affordability of housing and coping skills are all causing young adults to move back home. And in many cases, grandparents are taking custody of their grandchildren due to a lack of social structure in the home of their children. This is the case with my wife and I. We have our fourteen year old granddaughter living with us because our daughter was in a situation that defied all sensibility and put our granddaughter at risk. We are thrilled to have her and she loves being with us but it does put a strain on our household budget.
I bring all this up because we now live in a society that doesn’t really see its widows. We rarely use that word – at least I hardly ever hear it. It seems there is a negative connotation associated with the word widow and that is so wrong. Women live much longer than men on average so it is very likely we will have a lot of widows around, But the fact that women are aging much better and looking very good well into their 80’s leads us to think of them as still vibrant and able to care for themselves. They just don’t look like widows, if you know what I mean. I know a lot of ladies who are widows that lead very god lives and seem to be doing very well in society. I know they are hurting deep inside, but they do well to rise above that and be active in the community.
In Jesus day, it was a different picture. The woman was a housekeeper and her husband provided everything for her. There was no social security or welfare she could fall back on if her husband died so she was left to fend for herself and it was very difficult. People felt sympathy for them, but most households had enough to do just to keep their own house running smoothly. It was hard for them to give of their sustenance to help someone else out. So, the widows had to trust God to provide for them.
We read a couple stories in the Bible about widows that really show God’s provision and faithfulness. In 1st Kings 17, we can read the story of Elijah coming to the widow of Zarapeth. She was fixing bread from the last bit of meal that she had. Elijah asked for the bread she was making. She felt that once this bread was eaten, her and her son would die because they were out of food. But Elijah blessed the bread and the widow found that her meal never ran out. The widow was provided for.
In 2nd Kings 4 Elisha went to a widow’s house and she was about out of oil. She just had a cruse of it left. Elisha told her to go get all the vessels she could find and bring them to the house. She did that and the cruse filled every vessel she brought into the house so she did not run out. Again, the widow was provided for.
Throughout the Bible we read that God cares for the widows. Psalm 68:5 tells us that God is the Father of the fatherless and the protector of widows. Psalm 146:9 says God upholds the fatherless and the widow. Jeremiah 49:11 says the widows should trust in God. And James 1:27 says it is pure, undefiled religion to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to stay unspotted from the world.
It is fascinating to me that widows are so often mentioned along with the fatherless. And they are both mentioned as ones whom God has a special heart for. What intrigues me is that God is our heavenly Father and he is also the bridegroom waiting for His bride. To me this is not mere word play, but a truth that we should all pay close attention to. The fatherless can be seen as those who do not have Jesus Christ as their Savior, thus never becoming adopted into His family as children and heirs. And the widows can be seen as those who have not married the bridegroom after they have divorced this world. They have not come under is authority and become obedient to Him. These are people in desperate need of attention. They need provision from the word of God to help sustain them and lead them in the right path.
It would be easy for us to overlook these scriptures about widows because the landscape of our society has changed. But God always has a purpose and a vision for the future and He wants us to pay close attention to everything he has to say. We cannot ignore this charge to care for the widows. Whether they be true widows who have lost their husbands, or whether they be spiritual widows who have left this world behind and married the Bride. Both need our attention and our help.
On the other hand, Paul writes if a widow is living in pleasure then she is dead while living. In Paul’s day, this would be looked upon as slandering her husbands name. Today we often see widows go on to remarry or lead very good lives after their husband dies. So once again the picture has changed. But if a person who has died to this world by accepting Christ and lives a life of fun and games that are not spiritual, they face the same fate. They have not come under the arm of a protective Savior, but rather have decided to turn their backs on the one who saved them. This is a very dangerous place to live. Once we turn our backs on this world, we should never return to the ways of the world. Christ calls us to come out from among them and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). We are to have no part of that former life or of a life filled with gaiety. We are to become obedient to Christ and His commandments if we expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21)
Do you know any widows who are struggling in their faith? This is a call to all of us to provide the truth to them. The bread of life and the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness. Just as Elijah and Elisha provided for widows in their day, so we should bring the word of God to those who are trying to find their way once they have died to the world. We are not to condemn them, just as Christ did not come to condemn (John 3:17). We are to love them and nurture them, bringing them alongside so they can taste and see that the Lord is good. This is our calling!