God is a merciful Father in heaven. He cares for those who are in distress and need. He takes special care over the orphans and widows. Psalms 146:9 “The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down.” He expects you to also have concern for the orphans and widows. James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” While it is important to keep yourself free from the sin that is in the world, it is also important for you to help the orphans and widows since it is assumed that they do not have the resources that they need. God cares for these individuals and He wants you to also care for them. Certainly there are some widows who need no help; but many widows are left without resources when their husband dies.
The prophet Elijah prophesied that it would not rain and it did not rain for three years and six months. He was sent to a widow in Zarephath and God miraculously provided food for the widow during the time of the famine (1 Kings 17:8-16). Jesus was passing through the city of Nain when a young man died, the only son of a widow, and was being carried out. Jesus had pity on the widow and her son and raised him from the dead (Luke 7:11-15). God cares for the widow.
When a widow is in need, the first responsibility lies with the family to provide for her needs. 1 Timothy 5:4 “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” The family should not expect the church to help the widow; it is their responsibility first. Verse 8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Those who do not provide for their own family members demonstrate an improper attitude and spirit and the apostle Paul states that they are “worse than an unbeliever.” Verse 16 “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” The church’s resources are limited so it should have the responsibility only for widows who are really destitute.
If a Christian widow has no family, then the church should provide for her needs. Apparently the early church in Jerusalem was providing food for the widows there. Acts 6:1 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” There was a problem in that not all widows were receiving equal care. The apostles solved this problem by appointing the seven. Even so, this demonstrates that the church supplied the needs of the widows.
The apostle Paul gave Timothy the following instruction concerning widows in the church. 1 Timothy 5:3 “Honor widows who are really widows.” Verse 5 “Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.” One who is really a widow means one who has no family to help her and one who is Godly and trusts in God. Then the apostle gives the qualifications for the widow that the church is to help. Verses 9-10 “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.”
Let us look at these qualifications. “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number.” The church is to care for the widow who is old and not likely to marry again. 1 Timothy 5:11-15 “But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan.” The younger widow should marry again or she might become idle and be a gossip or a busybody.
“Unless she has been the wife of one man.” Perhaps this means that she was faithful to her husband or that she was not divorced and remarried. “Well reported for good works.” We have the story of the widow Tabitha (or Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-41 who sewed clothes for others; she died and the apostle Peter raised her from the dead. “If she has brought up children.” She could have raised her own children or orphans. “If she has lodged strangers.” This demonstrated her hospitality. “If she has washed the saints’ feet.” Remember, all Christians are saints. She should have demonstrated her service to fellow Christians. “If she has relieved the afflicted.” This demonstrated her mercy and service to others. “If she has diligently followed every good work.” I believe this summarizes the godly life of a widow that is qualified to be cared for by the church. These qualifications can also be an encouragement to a woman on the kind of service she should desire to provide in her lifetime.
My encouragement to you is to be careful to provide for any widow in your family; since she is family, she is your responsibility. If you are a woman, live the life of service described under the qualifications of the godly widow above; someday, you may be a widow needing help. If your church has qualified widows, be eager to serve them.