Care for our parents and grandparents is a fundamental life responsibility. Part of our worship of God is also to sacrificially care for widows in our close family. It should be a well-known fact around the globe that Christian families care for their own. This pleases Christ.
1 Timothy 5:3-16 is packed with implications for local churches and especially older saints but is rarely discussed. Economic prosperity often buries this rich and very practical passage. It may be that many churches that have not taken this passage seriously because of prosperity will soon do so.
As we take the time to understand this text and consider its implications, we find that it is relevant for every cultural context. We might also might find ourselves surprised that we have overlooked such valuable instruction.
Paul taught Timothy about how local churches are supposed to function. In doing this, he included a lengthy passage on the support of widows. In it Paul teaches us about the role of widows, how to support them, and also gives us principles that are applicable to all of God’s senior saints. We will spend the next several articles meditating on this passage together. You might want to read the intro article to this series as well: https://rootedthinking.com/2022/12/20/still-fruitful-the-value-of-senior-saints/.
A continual need through the centuries.
Financial support for needy widows is something followers of God have taken seriously since the beginning. The Bible teaches us that those who are genuinely righteous protect and help care for the poor, particularly widows and orphans. Local churches are responsible to financially assist impoverished widows and orphans within its membership. Just after Pentecost, the church in Jerusalem was zealous in this regard. There were political and cultural reasons why Jerusalem had so many widows at that time, so the Jerusalem church needed immediate guidelines about it (Acts 6).
Churches throughout history have supported widows, often as a part of their church budget. Though deacons were originally elected to oversee this kind of ministry in Jerusalem, churches have generally given this responsibility to certain women in the church.
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul answers this question in detail: How and when are local churches to financially support widows?
What it means to be a widow in much of the world.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy begin with the definition of a “true widow,” the kind of widow that local churches are responsible to help. Paul then shows us how to prioritize funds for this purpose.
Becoming a widow was a tragic event in New Testament times, a reality that is just as tragic for women in much of our world today. For many, to be widowed meant at least relative poverty, maybe even abject poverty. To survive, provide for their children, and avoid shame, women usually remarried as soon as possible. Jobs providing enough income to avoid poverty were unknown. Some cultures have not even allowed women to earn wages. Imagine being in this situation! But it is often worse than this.