Passage: 1 Timothy 5:3-16

Speaker: Steve Hands

Series: Truth Over Spin

Care For Widows

            Our passion for God can be seen in our action for the marginalized. In the ancient world, widows were particularly marginalized since the identity of women was embedded in their husband and family. Widows were therefore vulnerable and without basic protections in society, and the people of God were to care. Similarly today, the people of God are to care for the vulnerable. This COVID crisis has particularly highlighted the vulnerabilities of people of color and in poverty. How do we care well for the marginalized around us?  We honor and care through family and the church, not enabling but empowering.

            First we honor and care through family (1 Tim 5:3–8). This verse begins, “Honor widows who are truly widows” (5:3). Such honor and care begins with family. This burden can feel trivial and easily overlooked, yet we care “to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing to God” (5:4). Godliness begins in how we treat people closest to us, and we care in this manner because it is pleasing to God. Such care is commanded in the church (5:7), and the failure to provide for our own family is a denial of the faith (5:8).

            Yet care is not simply through family; we are also to honor and care through the church (1 Tim 5:9–10). The call to “let a widow be enrolled” suggests an official roster of widows for whom the church not only provides but also engages in ministry. Dignity is found when we can not only receive but also give. The qualifications to be enrolled are not only based on need but also character, character that reflects the qualities of a leader in the church. This suggests that these widows who are truly widows are to be honored for their leadership in the church. Indeed, such widows “left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (5:5). The church ought to honor and care for such singular faith.

            As we honor and care through family and church, we are not enabling (5:11–13). These verses address a particular problem in the Ephesian church, as younger widows would marry unbelievers and abandon their faith (5:11–12). Some would also receive support from the church to spread gossip as busybodies (5:13). Sometimes help can hurt; when we enable instead of empower, then we enable people without developing them.

            Instead of enabling, we must be empowering (5:14–16). The church ought to empower younger widows so that they can regain status in society, lest some be given an occasion for slander or stray after Satan (5:14–15). In that world, such empowering encouraged a younger widow to remarry and manage her household. Today, widows can be empowered not only through marriage but also through education. The church should always look for ways to empower those marginalized in society.

            So what? We must not avert our eyes from the marginalized around us because we have too many problems ourselves. Our God is the Father of the fatherless and defender of widows (Ps 68:5), and so the people of God were called to pay particular attention to the widows by caring for them (Deut 14:28–29). When we take advantage of them, his anger is aroused (Exod 22:22). And this passage shows us that we honor and care through family and the church, not enabling but empowering.