From the beginning the church had a concern for believing widows [see Acts 6:1; 9:39]. God’s special concern for widows is a recurring theme of the Old Testament [see Deuteronomy 14:29; Psalm 94:6; Malachi 3:5]. James says,
“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” [James 1:27].
One of the difficulties in interpreting Scripture is that it was written in a culture and generation that is different to our present culture. We therefore need to discern what specific details applied to the generation and culture in which it was written and what divine principles and practices are relevant to us in our day and culture.
In many cultures today, the position of widows is very different to what it was in Ephesus and in Paul’s day. Although not always the case, many widows are well taken care of financially, but in Paul’s day that was not the case. On the other hand Paul did not have the problem of homes for the elderly making excessive charges for their services.
The early church made provision for widows but this was open to abuse by some widows [and their families] who demanded church support. The issue of entitlement was as much an issue in those days as it is today! This is what Paul had to address.
The first principle that Paul laid down was that the family of a widow should take care of her [verse 4,8,16]. It may not be palatable in some circles but children are responsible to repay the investment that parents have made in their children [verse 4]. God’s commandment is to honour your father and your mother [Exodus 20:12]. That is not conditional on whether they have been good parents or not good parents.
The second principle that Paul laid down was that it was not intended that the church should be responsible for all widows. It should not be the responsibility of the church to care for widows who are under sixty years of age and able to work. The caring ministry of the church should not encourage idleness [v.13].
If a church did enrol a widow on the list of supported widows it should be ones who are alone, over 60 years of age, live a godly life [verse 5,10], have no means of support and are fully committed to serving Christ. Every pastor knows the value of godly widows who spend time in prayer and intercession.
Why do you think that God places so much importance on caring for widows and for elderly people?
What does it mean to “honour your father and your mother” [Ephesians 6:2]?
Do you think that there is a place for certain widows and elderly people to still be cared for by the church today?