REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 22, 2014. Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“Helping the Widows”
1 Timothy 5:3-16
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
Paul now turns to the problem of widows. In Paul’s time, widows were in an especially difficult position because employment for women was not readily available, nor was there some type of government assistance for the elderly. Perhaps some could receive help through family or friends, but many lived in poverty, never having received an inheritance. Since the outlook for many was dire, it was important for the church to support them. In fact, soon after the birth of the church, not too long after the Pentecost, the book of Acts records that the caring of widows was the first internal problem the church had to address (Acts 6).
This problem was also found in the Ephesian church, and Paul addresses this issue to Timothy in today’s passage. The primary concern in today’s passage is to identify which widows the church should provide for. There are two key indicators: not having other family members and general godliness of the widow. But the point that should not escape us today is precisely the church’s mandate to care for the widows. Why? Because the church is to reflect the heart of God on earth. When we love those who have nothing to offer in return, and we care for those who can’t help themselves, then we reflect the very love that God has demonstrated to us through His Son Jesus Christ.
So Paul gives Timothy admonitions as to how to deal with this matter in v.3: Honor widows who are real widows. Paul is saying, “Don’t be taken advantage of, but if there are real needs, real widows, honor them by providing for them.” And herein lies the principle the church is commended to live out: When there are people with genuine needs, the church should do all they can to help them. In fact, the apostle James says this is the sign of true religion (James 1:27). When we help widows and orphans, this is a certain way to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith.
So consider how helpful you are when it comes to those who are helpless and can offer nothing in return. When is the last you helped someone without expecting anything back? Challenge yourself to look for someone who needs help so that you can serve them without being paid back.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You have put us in a position to help the needy, including the widows. May we be generous in reflection of Your generosity toward us. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 8