Honor widows who are widows indeed;1 Timothy 5:3(NASB)
It is important that pastors and elders are properly equipped for the task ahead. Paul gives sound advice to Timothy on the necessary qualities and characteristics that should be present when a man takes on such an important responsibility within the Church. In chapter 3, he gives a comprehensive list of the attributes and characteristics required for those aspiring to be overseers in the Church and also instructs Timothy on his own roles and responsibilities as their pastor.
Paul provides Timothy with some important instructions on how to conduct himself in his own leadership role in chapter 4, and in the following section, he continues by giving advice on developing interpersonal skills and providing the necessary emotional support for the widow-women in their fellowship, as well as older men. "Do not sharply rebuke an older man," is Paul's advice to Timothy, "but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity."
There appears to have been a large number of widows in the church where Timothy pastored, and Paul spends considerable time instructing Timothy on how to behave towards this group of ladies and how best to support them, and he begins by advising him to, "Honour widows who are widows indeed."
Scripture indicates that the Lord has always had a tender heart and concern for widows. The Psalmist tells us that, "the Lord supports both widows and orphans," and Malachi warns, "I will come against those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans." James writes that the duty of the godly is "to visit orphans and widows in their distress," while Zechariah gives Israel a severe warning, "not to oppress the widow."
Although the Bible shows God's concern that widows are cared for, Scripture does not promote communism, communal living, or socialism, nor does it teach that some government agency should be employed to address the needs of widows in the community. He points out that a widow with children or grandchildren should be cared-or by their families because this is acceptable in the sight of God, while Paul considers that widows who give themselves to carnal pleasures and engage in wanton behaviour, should not receive support from the Church fellowship, but rather should be reproached.
When Paul instructs Timothy to, "Honor widows who are widows indeed", he gives a very concise description of someone who would fall into this category. "She who is a widow indeed," is one who has been left all alone with no family, but, "has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day." Widows who are 'widows indeed' are saintly old ladies who have no close family or other means of support and who honour the Lord with their righteous behavior, pious acts, godly attitude, and sincere prayers.
Younger widows, below the age of sixty, are excluded from being honoured as a 'widow indeed', as are widows who are carnally minded and who have a lust for the world. Similarly, widows who have children or grandchildren are not included in this group, because the younger generation should practise their duty towards their widowed mother, and make arrangements to care for their parents as they get older, for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Paul makes it clear that the widow in question is both bereft and bereaved - impoverished and alone. These widows are no doubt women of meager means who could be looked upon by some with careless disdain, but Paul makes it clear that such ladies are to be honoured in the Church community because their trust and hope is in the Lord.
May we take to heart this simple instruction from Paul and not turn a blind eye to those that are bereft and bereaved. May we be ready and willing to honour those widows who are 'widows indeed', and be mindful of any older people we know who would benefit from a gracious word, a listening ear, or a kind deed.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wise words of Paul to Timothy on the way that we should treat older men and women in our community. As they advance in years, it can be a temptation to dismiss them as unimportant, but Father, each one has a story to tell, and each is a child of the King and important to You. Help me to honour those in our Church community who are facing difficulties in their advancing years, and give me the grace to love them as Christ loved us and gave His life for us. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.