Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.1 Timothy 5:5(NASB)
Throughout Scripture, we catch glimpses of God's great compassion for the plight of widows and older women, who are alone in the world. We see examples of His gracious sensitivity towards those that are poor, advancing in years, and bereft of any comfort or support from their menfolk.
The Bible insists that they are to be treated with respect and kind compassion. They should be cared for, given protection, offered support, and no one should treat them unjustly or take advantage of them. The Law of Moses addressed many issues relating to widows and their needs, such as the harvesting law of gleaning, and the importance that justice was meted out to anyone who abused or neglected widows.
In the New Testament, we find Jesus condemning the hypocritical Pharisees for their ill-treatment of widow-women and their indifference to their physical needs. And as He hung on the cross, we see one of the most beautiful examples of Christ's compassion, flowing out towards His widowed mother, as He made sure that John, the beloved disciple, was given the responsibility of taking care of her, in her advancing years.
There are many such examples of God's deep compassion for widows in Scripture, and they illustrate the way the Christian Church should behave towards them. In 2 Timothy 5, Paul provides insight into the circumstances that identify a widow in need and gives the distinctive characteristics that can be found in widows who are genuinely deserving, "Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day."
Paul highlighted the right response towards needy widows, to ensure that only those who qualified for Church support received it. He made it clear that support should only be offered to those who are genuinely widows, "she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone.." A widow with children or grandchildren should be supported by their own family, who must learn to practice godliness towards their aging relatives - not only to repay their parents for giving them life, but because this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
Christian children and grandchildren should not only consider it a responsibility and a privilege to take care of their aging mother and grandparents, but should also welcome it as an opportunity to put faith into action, because it is the right thing to do, and it greatly honours the Lord.
Similarly, Paul pointed out that there are younger women who become widows, who are sufficiently fit and able to provide for their own needs or even to remarry. Paul was not promoting a socialist, communist, or co-operative agenda, but godly behaviour towards widows who are old and alone and in need.
But he also identified a necessary character trait in such women, "She has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day." The widow who qualifies for assistance from the church is one who trusts in the Lord to provide for all her needs and necessities. She is a godly woman who has placed her hope in God, and devotes herself to petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving night and day.
We live in an increasingly self-orientated society that has become progressively obsessed with self and 'selfies'. We live during a time when those who are old, frail, and alone are too often ignored, disrespected, or considered surplus to requirements. We may be in the world, but we are not of the world. We are not expected to act like the world, but to live in a Christlike way, so that His beauty may be seen in each of us.
Whether we are in the flush of youth or in the twilight years of our life, may we determine to take to heart the instructions Paul gave to Timothy, and may we cheerfully and diligently seek to develop the godly character of the widow who has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.
Heavenly Father, thank You for friends and family. Thank You for placing us in families, in the home, in our local churches, and in the wider Christian world. Help me to grasp every opportunity to care for those You place in my path - those that are younger who need guidance and encouragement, and those that are older and need loving care and support. Develop in me a godly attitude that fixes my hope on You alone, and I pray that I would develop the privileged habit of drawing close to You, day by day, in entreaties, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, for You are my God and I love You, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.