Does Your Church Truly Care for True Widows?

We look for people we can love and serve before, during, and after our services. But what about the other six-and-a-half days of the week?

Today many people, including widows, are financially wealthy but relationally impoverished. There is a great plague of loneliness in society in general and among the elderly in particular. The church has the opportunity and even the duty to provide for that relational need and many other needs among its members who are elderly or alone.

 

An especially important ministry of the earliest church was the ministry of caring for widows. In fact, early in the book of Acts we see that the church’s first conflict was related to widows, when some were unjustly favored over others. The Apostles responded by appointing a body of men of good repute to oversee and ensure the equitable distribution of charity. And though that was undoubtedly the right course of action, it did not solve every problem or answer every question, for decades later we find Paul writing to pastor Timothy about a situation in his church in Ephesus. In that little part of a longer letter (the first part of chapter 5), Paul clarifies the church’s responsibility by telling Timothy who the church should and should not support.

But before he does that, he lays an important foundation by reminding his young friend that church is family. Timothy is to take family as his starting point and to relate to the members of his church accordingly. He should treat older men with all the respect of a father, younger men with all the affection of a brother, older women with all the devotion of a mother, and younger women with all the purity of a sister. Why? Because in a spiritual sense, these people really are his family and deserve to be treated as such. Only then does Paul begin his instructions on how to care for widows.

Why Widows?

Why would the church need to care for widows? In short, because God cares about widows. Widows were an especially vulnerable group, who often had no means of support and no one to protect them or advocate for them. They were alone, often reduced to poverty, and were easily taken advantage of.

God hates and is opposed to any person or any system that either sinfully ignores or takes advantage of those who are unprotected or susceptible to harm. Psalm 68 calls God “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.” The Old Testament is full of calls for God’s people to care for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, the vulnerable.

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