What are guidelines to care for widows?

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By BibleAsk Team


Caring for widows is a significant theme throughout the Bible, reflecting God’s deep compassion and concern for the vulnerable. Widows often represent some of the most marginalized members of society, and the Scriptures provide clear instructions on how they should be treated within the community of faith. These guidelines emphasize justice, compassion, and practical support, ensuring that widows receive the care and respect they deserve.

Old Testament Guidelines for Caring for Widows

  1. Provision and Justice

The Old Testament sets a strong foundation for caring for widows, emphasizing justice and provision.

Exodus 22:22-24 (NKJV): “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.”

This passage highlights the seriousness with which God views the mistreatment of widows. It underscores the importance of not afflicting or oppressing them, promising severe consequences for those who do.

  1. Gleaning Laws

God instituted laws that allowed widows to gather food during harvest, ensuring their sustenance.

Deuteronomy 24:19-21 (NKJV): “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.”

These laws ensured that widows, along with other vulnerable groups, had access to food and resources necessary for their survival.

  1. Triennial Tithes and Offerings

Triennial Tithes and offerings were also designated for the support of widows.

Deuteronomy 26:12-13 (NKJV): “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.'”

In the third year a “tithe” was to be given to the local poor (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29), in addition to that always paid to the Levites. God did not forget the less fortunate, nor should His people do so.

  1. Justice and Advocacy

God calls for justice and advocacy on behalf of those that lost their husbands.

Isaiah 1:17 (NKJV): “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”

This verse underscores the need for active engagement in seeking justice and advocating for widows, ensuring their rights and dignity are protected.

New Testament Guidelines for Caring for Widows

  1. Jesus’ Compassion for Widows

Jesus exemplified compassion for widows, emphasizing their importance in God’s kingdom.

Luke 7:12-15 (NKJV): “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”

Jesus’ miraculous intervention on behalf of the widow of Nain not only restored her son to life but also restored her hope and security.

  1. Care in the Early Church

The early church took seriously the mandate to care for widows, organizing practical support and assistance.

Acts 6:1-4 (NKJV): “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'”

The appointment of deacons to ensure the fair distribution of resources to widows reflects the church’s commitment to their care.

  1. Instructions to Timothy

Paul provided specific instructions to Timothy on how to care for widows in the church.

1 Timothy 5:3-16 (NKJV): “Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan. If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”

Paul’s detailed instructions highlight several principles:

  • Family Responsibility: Families should care for their widowed members to ensure the church is not overburdened.
  • True Widows: Those truly in need and devoted to God should be supported by the church.
  • Character and Conduct: Widows receiving support should exhibit godly character and engage in good works.

Practical Guidelines for Caring for Widows Today

  1. Community Support and Involvement

The church should actively engage in supporting widows through community involvement and practical assistance.

James 1:27 (NKJV): “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Visiting and providing for widows in their distress is a mark of true religion, demonstrating God’s love in tangible ways.

  1. Financial and Material Assistance

Providing financial and material support to widows is essential to their well-being.

1 John 3:17-18 (NKJV): “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

True love and compassion are demonstrated through practical actions, ensuring widows’ needs are met.

  1. Emotional and Spiritual Support

Widows often need emotional and spiritual support, which the church can provide through fellowship, counseling, and prayer.

Romans 12:15 (NKJV): “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Sharing in the joys and sorrows of widows fosters a sense of community and support.

  1. Encouragement and Inclusion

Widows should be encouraged and included in the life of the church, participating in ministries and outreach.

Titus 2:3-5 (NKJV): “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

Widows can play a vital role in teaching and encouraging others within the church community.

Conclusion

Caring for widows is a biblical mandate rooted in God’s compassion and justice. The guidelines provided in both the Old and New Testaments emphasize the importance of provision, justice, and practical support for widows, ensuring their well-being and dignity. The early church’s example and the specific instructions given to Timothy by Paul highlight the need for organized and compassionate care within the faith community.

In today’s context, these principles remain relevant and essential. Churches and believers are called to actively engage in supporting widows through financial assistance, emotional and spiritual support, and inclusion in the life of the church. By doing so, we reflect God’s love and compassion, fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for the most vulnerable among us.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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