Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 1 Timothy 5:3 (NIV).
This section of 1 Timothy talks about how to live with elders, slaves and widows. Let’s extrapolate a little. How about we pay attention to all people in need? Yep: going there. As always, if this makes you feel guilty, stop reading. Go talk with Jesus and get it off your heart. Drill down as to specifically why you feel guilty. After that, come back and start where you left off because Jesus is telling us here, through Paul, that we are supposed to look out for each other.
Especially widows. When you consider that women in ancient Israel (and all over the Mediterranean actually) were treated as chattel, the exhortation to recognize and help widows in need is understandable. A married woman would share much of the status of her husband, who would provide for her and care for her. Yet when he died, especially if she had no other family, a widow could quickly become destitute. She could find herself on the streets, selling herself or worse just to get by. Starvation was (and is) real and a real possibility; it was a savage time.
Kind of like today, especially overseas. But let’s not kid ourselves. The need is real and acute here in the good old US of A.
My mom was a widow for 17 years. When Dad died, he left her with enough income to live a good life. Her home was paid off; her bills were small; her transportation was reliable. Yet I still found myself feeling that I needed to provide for her because she was my mom and, well, because she was a widow. I hadn’t even really absorbed verses like this one: I simply knew it was something that I should do.
Flash forward to now. Is your mom or sister or friend a widow? Jesus tells us to help them, to recognize their predicament and, to preserve their dignity, help them. If it means opening our homes, do it; if it means opening our wallets, do it. If it’s praying, bringing food, listening, helping with work, anything: do it. Then let’s apply the lesson to the bigger picture. Homeless on the street? Help them. Someone in prison who is despondent? Visit and listen. Neighbor loading a moving truck? Pitch in. Paul’s advice to help widows in Asia has much larger applications in our lives than just helping women whose husbands have died. Remember Jesus’ command: love the Lord God with all your heart, then love your neighbor as yourself. What better way to live this out than to give help when & where it’s needed.
For further reading: Mark 12:30-31, 1 Timothy 5:4.
Father God, show me widows and others in my path today who I can help.