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Entries in Widows (1)


Mother’s Day: Honor

This weekend was Mother’s Day.  So, we are going to take a break from the Gospel of Luke and look at 1st Timothy 5:4-16.  But, first, let me remind ourselves of the 5th commandment in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”  Honoring our mothers is just as important to us as it is for our mothers.  So as we talk about honor today it would be easy to say that we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, just in case you might be tempted to think this is optional, I would remind you that we are under the Law of the Spirit.  Thus Paul in Ephesians reminds us of this commandment.  The Spirit is calling all believers to be people of honor in how we live, but also people who honor others.  Christians are those who follow the Spirit of Christ who makes it clear that he wants us to honor.  So this is not optional.

Today’s passage looks specifically at widows and how we ought to honor them within the Church context.

Churches Must Wisely Honor Widows In Need

The Scriptures tell us that the Church should be a place in which we all honor one another.  Now honor is one of those words that has both internal and external implications.  In this passage honor is being used for the specific, external action of financial support.  Financial support is a practical expression of the internal honor that we have for someone.

Now that brings up the issue of what Honor is.  At is root, honor means to value.  So how much do I value someone?  Do I value them at all?  This brings up a big issue because historically a woman who is widowed has little value to offer society, especially if she was older.  It has been said that the true test of a civilization is the way it treats its old people.  Keep in mind that the United States of America is beginning to experience a transition as the Baby Boomers become senior citizens.  By 2030 it is projected that around 25% of Americans will be over 65.  Add to this the fact that women, in general, outlive their husband.  So this might not sound like a big issue today, but it is, and it will only become increasing more important. 

Widowhood has always been a problem for women.  On one hand they are grieving and mourning the loss of a loved one and yet, their immediate financial situation may be in jeopardy.  They have often found themselves alone, unwanted, without finances, and uncared for.  If we truly value someone, we will do all we can to keep this from happening.  Even if the world around us doesn’t value them, Christians dare not turn their back.  In our current world there is an increasing mentality that if a person is old and cannot take care of themselves, or is in need of a lot of medical attention, it would be better for them to euthanize themselves.  We see this even on the opposite side of the age spectrum with babies who have illnesses like Down’s syndrome and the like.  In fact a twisted moral argument can be made that it is selfish for these people to use most our resources when they will not produce for society.  The problem in this thought process is how we define value.  God’s Word tells us that the helpless, weak, and even infirmed have great value because they show us what our strength and abilities are really for.

Now Paul points out that the Church should not financially support widows who have family that could do it.  Of course if the family members were not Christians and refused to help that would be a different story.  Here Paul’s concern is that care for a widow is primarily the responsibility of her adult children. 

Paul also points out that our piety or godliness starts at home.  In other words there is no room for a person to neglect this duty and then come to church and “praise the Lord.”  We need to be godlier at home than we are at church, otherwise, we are just pretending.  Even deeper than this is the fact that we need to be godlier in our inner life than in our home life.  Righteousness and godliness need to flow out of an inner life that is lived with the Spirit of the Lord.  Anything other than this is just fakery.  Can we really be in danger of doing good everywhere but in our own home?  Whether your mom moves in with you or not, you have duty before God to care for your mother and father in the years that they cannot care for themselves.  This is true religion.

In verses 5-7, Paul points out that a true widow is someone who is alone and trusts upon God for help.  This is contrasted to a widow who is tempted to use carnal means to help her situation.  Those who pursue a luxury do not have the things of God in mind.  Thus he tells Timothy to teach the widows to not pursue the passions of their flesh but instead turn to God in prayer.  In verse 10 he adds to this list that they give themselves to good works for others.  An example of this can be found in Acts 9.  A close reading of the passage will make it clear that Tabitha was a widow who would make clothes for the poor.  Thus being a widow does not mean God has forsaken you and your life is over.  This transition was a time that some widows would walk away from the faith and go into immorality.  The church should not support such widows who walk away from the faith.  It may sound like a cliché to tell widows to trust in the Lord and pray, however, this is exactly what the Spirit is saying to them through Paul.  God can give a grieving widow the inspiration to know how to move forward and the church should do its best to make sure they are cared for, even if that means meeting with some adult children and reminding them of their duty.

Now in verses 9 through 16 we need to give a little background.  Admitting widows into “the number” was something that developed in the early Church.  Widows would pledge to give themselves to prayer and ministering to others on behalf of the Church and the Church would feed, clothe and shelter them.  This pledge to not remarry and instead serve as ministers was considered to be a serious thing, not a “try it for a little while” type of thing.  We see this in Acts 6 where a complaint arose in the Jerusalem Church because certain widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution.”  Here we see that someone was in charge of distributing (food, etc…) daily to the widows who had no one to care for them.

Now not all widows are widowed at an elderly age.  Young widows would have two problems here.  They could be tempted to make a pledge to become a part of “The Number” to quickly settle the concerns for their future.  Yet, it would be most likely that they would eventually change their mind and desire to remarry.  To make such a vow and then want to turn against it would create a very negative spiritual condition within the widow.  Thus Paul says to not admit young widows into the Number.  Rather, encourage them to remarry.  This doesn’t mean the church couldn’t help them on a short-term basis.  What is being talked about here is an ongoing long-term commitment.

Let me just close this by speaking to widows.  Even if you have family, you most likely feel alone and wonder if God has abandoned you.  Please understand that God has a special place in Heart for you even though it doesn’t feel like it.  If you will turn to Him in prayer and petition Him daily, He will help you.  Part of that help will be in the form of a Church that values you, not because of your age and ability to produce as this world thinks of it.  But simply because you still have much to offer both in helping others and spiritually giving us a picture of one who is completely dependent upon God. 

In the USA many widows are not as helpless as they have been in the past and in other cultures.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and that all are valued.