No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 1 Timothy 5:9-15 (NIV).
This was obviously quite a problem for the early church: how to care for widows. Life expectancy in first century Judea was little better than it had ever been. A man or woman in decent health could reasonably expect to live into their late TWENTIES. Yes, you read that right. If you lived beyond that age, you had access to sanitation, decent food, shelter, and you were the clear exception. In Rome, people reasonably lived into their thirties or forties (mainly because many Romans had those basic needs satisfied). Imagine how people would have viewed you if you were old, like in your seventies or eighties. In a patriarchal society like Judea (like all societies of that time actually) it would make sense that caring for widows of all ages would, then, have been of paramount concern. Due to that short life expectancy, there would have been many.
Cue in on that last verse, though, because it matters for all of us today. “Give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” Satan is a coward who doesn’t attack us in our strong places. That’s how he operated in Jesus’ time; it’s how he works now. Satan slanders us, weakens us, angers us, uses our emotions against us. Folks who lose loved ones are especially vulnerable to falling away from the faith. The enemy attacks us in our weak spots at such opportune times, so it’s especially important that we support those who have suffered loss.
It’s our mission in life to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. One way to do that is to care for each other when we’re in need, when we’re vulnerable. People die around us every day. Let’s each work today to do what we can to help our neighbors and loved ones when that happens.
For further reading: 1 Timothy 5:16.
Lord, show me someone today who I can help in Your good name.