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Our Obligation to Care for Widows

Today’s post is sponsored by BJU Seminary and written by Stuart Scott, professor of biblical counseling and ACBC Fellow. BJU Seminary equips Christian leaders through an educational and ministry experience that is biblically shaped, theologically rich, historically significant, and evangelistically robust.

God cares how we treat people because He Himself is gracious and kind to all. But in our individualistic society, the doctrine of “loving your neighbor as yourself” is not commonly put into practice. We often neglect others, especially a particular group of people in great need: widows.

God expresses concern for widows, divorced parents, and single parents and instructs His people to care for them throughout the Bible. For example, in the Old Testament: “you shall not mistreat any widow” (Exod. 22:22); “cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the … widow” (Deut. 27:19); “plead the widow’s cause” (Isa. 1:17). In fact, widows were so frequently subject to abuse in the Old Testament that the Book of Job uses their exploitation to exemplify human iniquity.

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself dealt with the topic of widows throughout the Gospels, and He even saw that His mother, probably a widow, was taken care of as He hung from the cross. Then one of the first issues the church faced was the neglect of widows’ needs (Acts 6). And the most thorough passage on the church’s care for widows, 1 Timothy 5:1–16, goes so far as to give specific instructions for specific types of widows.

At the end of the day, caring for widows is mandatory for the church and entails several areas of practical application.

  1. To be able to care for widows, we first have to know who they are. We should look within our families, churches, and even neighborhoods to identify who needs help, how we can help, and how we can pray for them.
  2. We also need to give widows hope by bringing God’s Word into their lives. Reminding them of how He provided for Noami, Ruth, and others can be helpful at the appropriate times.
  3. Similarly, we should give words of love and encouragement to widows. There are various opportunities, like in passing at a church or family function, or through a note or a phone conversation. These are necessary forms of ministry when spoken at the appropriate times.
  4. Deeds of love are also crucial when caring for widows. We can pray for them. Run errands for or with them. Visit them (not just a 10-minute drop-in). Invite them to our homes and gatherings. Support those who have special needs. “Adopt” them. Find their practical needs, like repairs. Listen to their concerns and fears. The goal is to look after them, not just give them passing glances.
  5. We should help widows specifically with their finances. Churches are not welfare agencies, but most have a benevolent fund and other resources that can be allocated to practical care for their members. We must investigate their true needs, examine whatever options are available, and seek to meet those needs (1 Tim. 5:3–16).
  6. Planning ahead (pronoeo, 1 Tim. 5:8) is often overlooked for grandparents and parents. Have we considered where they would live? Would our homes accommodate them? Could we support them if they can’t live with us? And we can’t forget to plan for spouses, too. Taking out a term life insurance policy or a policy for the family is wise in case the unexpected happens.

Caring for widows is a rewarding ministry. When we treat widows, widowers, the unmarried, and singles with the loving care God shows us, we meet their needs, help the church, and, most importantly, please the Lord Jesus (1 Tim. 5:4).

For a fuller treatment of 1 Timothy 5:1–16, listen to Stuart Scott’s chapel message here.

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