The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Timothy 5:1-16 Concerning the care of widows

[The following is the lecture I gave at our Women's Bible Study on March 13, 2014.]

I don't know about you, but I know that when I really dug into this passage, I Timothy 5:1-16,  I
At the Broadmoor (2013)
realized that we all play a part, we all have a responsibility, we all need to be involved in the care of widows, those left alone, who are in our families and in our church. 

Reminds me of the story of a 105 year old woman who in a nursing home who got news that her last living child who was 85 had just passed away. When the nurse came in she told her that now she was ready to die since she no longer had to worry about any of her children.
I think maybe she had the order of things a little confused since at her age her children should be taking care of her.

I refuse to call taking care of our widows a problem because some of the most godly women I have ever known were widows. They should be considered one of the biggest assets our churches have.

The first thing I want to talk about today is just how important widows are to God.

In the Old testament we read in Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed be he who perverteth the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” I found it interesting to note that all three of these are people who are alone... the traveler in a foreign country, children without their father and widows.
In the first chapter of Isaiah God Isaiah tells the people what God expects from them and in verse 16 we read, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, remove the evil from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”

And then through Jeremiah God speaks again about this subject close to his heart in chapter 22:3, “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless and the widow,....”

In Exodus God was even clearer about mistreatment of those who were alone in this world:
 "You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry to me, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Garden of the Gods (2013)
According to Smith's Bible Dictionary during the Old Testament times the care of a widow went to the oldest son since he would have inherited the assets of his father so he would have resources to care for his mother. Widows were also encouraged to remarry. The only guidelines for that was if they were childless, then the brother of her late husband had some obligation to marry her to give her children to carry on the linage of his brother.

In the New Testament we see over and over the compassion Jesus extended to widows. He not only knew their plight but he saw them, he didn't turn away. He knew what was happening in their life. 

In Mark 12 we see Him in the temple watching as worshipers put their money in the offering box. He saw those who put in large sums of money and then a widow came and put in two small copper coins, which added up to a penny. This was important enough that he called his disciples over and said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Another time we see a miracle he did for the widow as he approached the city of Nain, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, “arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Jesus cared about this woman and her plight. Widows, be assured, God knows you and knows your needs.

And of course, Jesus himself was the oldest son of his mother Mary, also a widow. On the cross as he was dying we see him committing her care to the disciple whom He loved, “Behold they mother! And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home.”

In Acts we see the early church specifically assigning to seven men the care for the Hellenistic
My garden  2013
widows. Just a word of explanation: the Hellenists refers to Greek speaking or “Grecian” Jews. The Hellenists as a body included not only the proselytes of Greek or foreign parentage, but also those Jews who, by settling in foreign countries, had adopted the prevalent form of the current Greek civilization, and with it the use of the common Greek dialect. So we see that the church not only took care of their Hebrew widows but also saw to it that these other widows were also cared for.

But today we must admit that times today are a bit different than they were back in Paul and Timothy's day. Then women generally were considered to have no real use except in the home for the rearing of children and keeping of the house. There were few jobs available for them and without a husband, “a woman alone” if she had no family to provide for her was destitute. So then women who were “indeed” widows... real widows with no one to take her in and too old to remarry needed help.

Today, in many cases widows actually end up with more financial resources than widowers do simply because their husbands have worked hard and planned well to take care of their wives in the event that they die first. Also because of savings and investments, Social Security and pensions many widows do have a sufficient source of income, to varying degrees to be sure, but they do have some sort of income coming in.

The biggest problem today is that families tend to be spread across the country and when as widows get older, they find they can't care for their home, their yards, their finances and sometimes even just their needs to get groceries and health care without help, but there is no family close enough to help with all of that.

And so today that is where the church comes in to help.

a cosmos 2013
I thought it would be interesting to share with you the role our church has taken to help those left alone in our church. Tom Baird who is the head of the deaconate here at Village 7 said that all the widows in the church are identified as soon as possible. Whether that is through the death of their husband or through new widows becoming a part of our church family. Each one is assigned to a deacon or a deacon's assistant. Their purpose is to insure that the widows whatever needs they have are taken care of.  Like I said before that is generally not financial help but in some cases it is. The deacons also give help to meet spiritual needs, they help with yard work, home repair or even transportation for various reasons. He said that they are also getting young people involved in helping too whether with physical work but especially just spending time with those alone. The deacon assigned also connects other people who want to help in the church with those needing help. Many times they also work with family in other parts of the country to be sure the widow has what she needs and is in the place that is best for her.

Their ministry has also begun to include women who are single,for various reason but find themselves in need of help. They don't have a list of these but do appreciate it when these women contact the church and let them know of their needs. Or even friends who reach out for their friends and ask for help.

He also pointed out that as our families get more and more spread out across the country and even the world there is a growing need for more help. If you were in church Sunday you saw the wonderful video on the mercy ministry here at the church. Another School of Mercy is beginning the end of the month which will give you the resources and training you need to reach out to others with compassion and mercy. After you take the class you can decide what it is you would like to do or not. You will need to register by the 24th and you can do that online at V7PC.org.

Here in chapter 5 of I Timothy Paul lays out exactly what should happen to the widows in the church
Yard -fall -2013
Timothy was leading, and he was exact wasn't he? He also lays out some basic principles about what our response should be in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. Principles that applied then in that culture and still apply today in ours.

He begins with instructions concerning the need for encouragement to everyone in the church. In those first few verses Paul sums up a pretty simple attitude we should all have in our relationships with everyone else in the church.

Rebuke comes across as criticism and judgment and even punishment. Someone said that Rebuke looks back at something done in the past while encouragement looks to future actions on a positive note.

I love how Paul explains saying Timothy should think of the older men as fathers, the younger men as brothers, the older women as brothers and the younger women as sisters in all purity. Just as a family does, the church family needs to build others in the family up, not tear them down. We need to work on encouraging one another to go forward with proper actions as we live in this broken world.

I saw this little bit about the need for encouragement on Facebook the other day from Ann VasKomp. 

Hey Soul? Everyone you meet today is fighting this hard battle & needs courage. Needs help to live "in courage." Needs someone to encourage with words that give strength for their battle. "Gently encourage... & reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out." 1Thess5:13MSG”

Another idea or truth Paul teaches is that women definitely should not be passive in the care of the widows. He is saying caring for the widows is not just for the men, the leadership in the church to deal with. It would seem that he is telling Timothy to teach or command the women in the church some basic things about what  their behavior should be as widows and as a woman in the church.

    Clematis Fall 2013
    How many of you  have at some point in your life been a child? 
    How many of you have parents? 
    How many of you have grandparents? 
    Or even Aunts and Uncles?  Relatives alone or in need of help?

    *Not only in verse 4 does he talk about the children of widows showing godliness by caring for their parents just as their parents took care of them when they were children because this is pleasing to God. And of course we all know the command in Ephesians 6:1-2, [and he doesn't specify which gender] “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [why] that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”

    AS children, no matter our age we do have an obligation to our parents but in verse 16 we see that a believing woman also should care for other relatives who are alone. But what does that look like in this day and age when so many times families live so far apart? Sometimes it means a move, a change for someone.

    There are so many possible scenarios concerning this but as we have studied Timothy we see an overriding theme here--godliness. And godliness is the key...godliness leads to being content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves whether that is something we planned or something that becomes necessary because of the circumstances of our life or in the life of those we are to care for.  You see God  has extended amazing grace to us by sending His son to die for us while we were still sinners, to die for dead people who could do nothing for themselves. And that becomes the focus, not ourselves..

    Change is always hard, and the older we get the harder it gets. But through God's grace, we can face with joy the changes that will come. As Paul said in chapter 4 starting with verse 7..."Rather train yourself for godliness, for godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come...for to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

    When our hope is set on the living God, when we have our eyes on him and not our comfort,
    our desire to have things the way we have always had them, our things, our home, our whatever, then the changes can happen with contentment because we don't look to those things for our happiness but to God.Our eyes are on Him and so we humble ourselves accepting the change. Then and only then will we realize that change is part of God's plan to teach us to trust Him more.

    Note that when Paul talks about the real widows he has several criteria which include a woman who has set her hope on the living God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.” She has learned through years of walking with God, of trusting Him that He will provide and so when she finds herself alone, she turns to this God whom she has found faithful so many times. 

    The opposite of this woman is the “self-indulgent” woman who lives in worldly pleasure. I can't help but think this doesn't just mean fulfilling her sexual desires or wanton pleasures but could mean the woman who spends her life gratifying her desires for things, money, clothes and the list goes on rather than seeking God and doing good works. Notice that Paul talks about “good works” over and over. Other things he mentions are bringing up children (and in one of the commentaries I read, they said that can mean helping raise or care for children not her own who need care, she has also shown hospitality, by taking in strangers who are traveling from other lands. She also washed their feet which was necessary because of their having walked the dusty roads. Today we just provide a clean shower and nice soap and towels. They also reached out to the afflicted, they helped protect and assist those who were in danger, and those who wer down trodden.

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, 2013
But again the point is that these women have not lived a self-indulgent life.The things they did were for others.  Those women whose motives and heart are focused on God and his work will not be selfish when they become widows and in need. 

When I was in South Dakota in that small church there were a number of widows in the church. One time I said something to someone else about one of the widows whose demeanor was so peaceful and calming. Her face just glowed with an inner beauty that was amazing. Vangie encouraged everyone she came in contact with and reached out to everyone in the church. This other person who had been in that church all of her life said that was exactly the way Vangie had lived her entire life. She went on to say that it seemed like you could tell how an older woman had lived her life by just looking at her face in her later years. I think that is what Paul is saying here. The trust we have in God during our younger years will become evident when we face the “hard” days of old age. My Dad always says that getting old “ain't for sissies.” It is hard to get old, it can be lonely, it will in all likelihood be painful, there will be many nights of little slee and lots of frustration at not being able to do what once was easy to do.. And at some point we might have to move out of our homes, perhaps move in with our children or at least close to them so they can help us. What will our attitude be? Will the trust we have in God come across if change is necessary or will our own selfish desires for things not to change come through?

Another idea or truth that we need to think about is what he says in verse 16, “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened.”

Wow, that really does cover most of us, especially if you think that as part of the church, we are sisters of each other and so all the widows in the church are our relatives. 

What does that look like?

There is a story in Acts 9 about a woman by the name of Dorcas or Tabitha. We've all heard of Dorcas
Dahlia at Hudson Gardens 2013
because of her good “works and acts of charity.” Evidently her good works were helping the widows in the church. She evidently made them tunics and garments using her own resources. But here in Acts we read that she became ill and died. The widows were weeping over the death of this dear sister who had taken such good care of them. They called for Peter who was in a nearby town and when he came he sent everyone from the room (perhaps because their crying and lamenting was so loud). Then he knelt down and prayed: then he turned toward the body and said, “Tabitha, arise.” She sat up and giving her his hand she stood and he presented her to the saints and the widows.

Can you imagine the joy in that house, among those widows that day?

Tabitha or Dorcas, which means good works, was just a woman in the church. She did what she could to care for and encourage those left alone around her. We don't know about Dorcas's husband, we don't don't about her social situation but she evidently had a means of resources that she used to help others who were in need. In our church today that could mean widows, it could also mean single moms, it could mean widowers, it could mean women who have never married. As women, Paul says that we are to help each other.

Judy is a friend of mine whose family lives back in the eastern part of the country. She has several
Rose at Hudson Gardens 2013
aunts who are widows and alone. I met Judy through the stamp clubs I had when I was a Stampin Up Demonstrator and each time she came she was looking for cards she could make for those aunts. She had been sending them a card and a hand written letter each week for years. She also sent cards to the children in the church and also the widows and those who were hurting in her church here in the Springs. Judy has a full time job but she spent hours reaching out to others.

Another woman who is in her later years, but has a car and drives well can be found several days a week transporting her friends (sometimes younger that she) to doctor's appointments or to grocery stores to do their weekly shopping. She does this expecting nothing in return for the time and gas used to help her friends.

Several years ago a woman who was recently widowed shared with a friend that the hardest thing for her was evenings and getting ready to go to bed.  There was no one to talk to or even just say "good-night" to.  The friend decided at that time that she would call the widow every night at nine o'clock to just ask her how her day had been and then say, "Good Night....sleep well."  Only took a few minutes each day but what a blessing to this woman all alone.

Many of our widowed relatives have the financial means to live but the hardest thing they deal with is loneliness. In this day and age when most of us have phones with free long distance included, why don't we pick up the phone more often and just call an aunt or an older cousin or a long lost friend to visit for a few minutes. To let them know we are thinking about them. Or even sending a little care package with a bag of tea, a little box of chocolate or even a bouquet of flowers can mean the world to someone who lives alone. We need to let each other know that we care and that they aren't alone. 

Rose at Hudson Gardens 2013
And you know what? Loneliness doesn't just happen to widows.  There are times we most of us feel alone even in a crowd. But the more we reach out to others, the less alone we will feel. My advice for anyone here who feels lonely at times is to get up and go out and do something for someone else. Get out of your comfort zone. If you don't know what you could possibly do, sign up to take the course in the Mercy School. I promise you it will be seven of the most profitable weeks you will spend.

One ministry directed to widows here in the church is Naomi Fellowship. This is in large part funded by the deaconate who also try to attend these monthly luncheons where they can be even more involved with the widows of the church. But the thing I love about Naomi Fellowship is that many of those who plan and carry out those monthly luncheons are widows themselves... again involved in doing good works of every kind. Isn't it wonderful to know that as Paul said in Ephesians, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So once again we see Paul in essence saying that in the church as we grow in godliness, as we become more and more aware of our dependence on God and what he has done for us, our focus will be Christ instead of ourselves. And then He will be able to direct our work, our work of good to others in the body of believers. I am often reminded of a story about General William Booth who founded the Salvation Army.

It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army in
Rose Garden at Hudson Gardens
London, England was near the end of his life. His health was poor, and he was going to be unable to attend the Army’s annual convention. Booth had become an invalid, and his eyesight was failing him. No one knew that he would not live to see another Christmas. 

Somebody suggested that General Booth send a telegram or a message to be read at the opening of the convention as an encouragement to the many soldiers of the Salvation Army that would be in attendance following Christmas and their many hours of labor ministering to so many others through the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed to do so.
Knowing that funds were limited and desiring not to use any more money than necessary so that as much money as possible could be used to help the many people in need, General Booth decided to send a one word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, looking for the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the others to continue on.
When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth would not be able to be present because of failing health and eyesight. Gloom and pessimism swept across the floor of the convention. Then, the moderator announced that Booth had sent a message to be read with the opening of the first session. He opened the telegram and read the one word message:

Signed, General Booth.

I pray that God will use each of us to be devoted to good works of every kind. To reach out not only to our own relatives who are alone, but to others in our church who are alone. After all Paul tells us that the world will know we are Christians by our love for each other. They don't know that kind of love but they are looking for it. Let's pray for each other that through the grace of God through His Spirit, that kind of love will be evident to a world that so badly needs His truth.


  1. you are a gifted writer and teacher.

  2. So good to be reminded what the Word says about widows, and about God's heart for them. Thank you.