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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

WIDOWS INDEED

1 Tim 5:3 Honor widows that are widows indeed.

Beginning with the lesson text, and continuing through verse 16, we find God's commandments concerning Christian widows. A widow is the remaining spouse of a marriage when the husband passes away in death. It is evident from this passage that not all widows are widows indeed. Those that are widows indeed are to be honored by, and where necessary, provided for and supported, by the membership of the church of Christ. In this study we will try to determine who are widows indeed, and what obligation the body of Christ has to them. As an example, Acts 6:1 tells us that the church in Jerusalem had honorable widows that needed the support of that particular body of Christ.

Under what circumstances were widows to be considered as widows indeed? Reading further we find Paul telling Timothy this: But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God (Vs. 4). Most bible scholars contend that the better translation of "nephews" would be "grandchildren." However, in this passage we find it is the God-given duty of family members to provide for the care and sustenance of a widow. Therefore, if a widow has members of her family able and willing to care for her needs, she would not be considered a widow indeed.

In the absence of family, or their willingness to care for a Christian widow, she is left desolate. And having no family members in which to trust, she trusteth in God, and continueth in supplication and prayers night and day (Vs. 5). Where there is no other avenue of comfort, consolation, and care, a devout Christian must turn to their heavenly Father to find physical sustenance for life here on earth. Considering circumstances, such as these, a widow must be considered a widow indeed, and by the commandment of God, she becomes the responsibility of the church membership to provide for her care. Through His church, over which His Son is its Head, God has made provision for the care of every Christian widow indeed.

But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth (Vs. 6). When there is no one else to turn to, a Christian widow will place her trust in God to provide for her welfare. Contrary to this, a non-Christian widow will give in to her physical appetites, and place her trust in things of the world. Although she may be able to eke out a meager existence, her soul is as dead as her physical usefulness for the remainder of her life on earth. This being the circumstance, a widow that lives in the pleasures of this world cannot be considered a widow indeed, and members of the church of Christ have no obligation to render her their support. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless (Vs. 7). These are God's commands given by inspiration to the apostle Paul. Upon passing them along to Timothy, he was to charge the church of Christ in Ephesus to obey them, using them to guide their decisions, regarding the care of widows within their congregation. Doing so, the elders of this body of Christ, as well as its membership, would be obeying God's will, and would be held blameless in the sight of God.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (Vs. 8). As referred to in this context, children and grandchildren have the God-given obligation to support their aged parents and grandparents. In its broadest sense, any one that does not provide for the needs of any member of their family fails to carry out a commanded obligation to do so, denies their faith in God, and is worse than an infidel - an atheistic, unbelieving heathen. One may believe that there is a God that created all things, but to ignore the duties and responsibilities required by Him in His holy word is to deny God's authority over mankind. This action of abandonment, by a family member, Paul says, is worse than being an infidel who denies God's existence.

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old (Vs. 9a). Here the apostle Paul gives an additional qualification for a widow, to be considered a widow indeed. A widow is not to be included in the number as a widow indeed unless she is sixty years old. Whether this is an exact age for a widow to qualify as a widow indeed, or whether the translation should be merely aged women is only speculation. It seems that the extent of need, and the depth of destitution, would have as much, or even more, bearing on whether a widow qualifies, or does not qualify, for assistance by the congregation of the church of Christ. Also, many bible scholars consider "the number" as a group of widows indeed, that were to be assigned certain duties to be performed, in order to receive assistance from the church. I think not. The work of the Lord is performed as a free-will gift, with the reward being eternal life in heaven. Earthly rewards, for deeds of kindness, seem foreign to the faith-based religion, that God has established for His children in the New Testament era of Christianity.

A widow to be considered a widow indeed, must also have been the wife of one man (Vs. 9b). Civil divorce was just as prevalent, when this letter was written to Timothy, as it is in today's society. Considering this fact, to be a widow indeed, a widow must not have had more than one husband living at the same time, that is, she must not have had an unscriptural divorce and remarriage. It certainly does not mean that second marriages, which meet scriptural guidelines, excludes one from being considered a widow indeed, because in the following verse 14, Paul recommends remarriage for younger widows.

To be a widow indeed, one that had lost her husband to death, she must have lived an exemplary life as a Christian. She must have been given to good works, reared children, been hospitable to strangers, humbly ministered to the needs of fellow Christians, and when necessary, washing their feet. She must also have given relief to those afflicted by any distressful situation, and diligently followed every good work. These characteristics are a summation of the righteous, charitable, self-sacrificing nature of a widow,whoshould be honored by a congregation of God's people as a widow indeed (See Vs. 10).

But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith (Vss. 11-12). Younger women having become widows at an early age are not to be considered as widows indeed. Therefore, they should not become dependant on the church for sustaining provisions. Why? Because at a younger age they may "wax wanton." This passage does not mean in any way that marriage, and faithful responsibility to the cause of Christ, are opposed to each other, or that one voids the usefulness to the other. Wantonness, as used here, does not mean acting in a lewd, indecent, and unchaste manner of life. In this context it means that a younger widow may not be completely ready and willing to remain as an unmarried widow forever - they may not be ready to give their entire energy to the service of the Lord by renouncing future marriage. Although it is not sinful in the sight of God, the desire to be remarried, and pursue the responsibilities that married life requires, would hinder the hospitality and good works that a widow indeed is expected to be given to.

The gravity and the dedication that is expected of a widow indeed in carrying out her duties, is generally not found in a younger widow. Without the duties inherent in being remarried, a young widow could possibly be given to other actions that may detract from service to God. Paul says that idleness could be such a hindrance. Generally social idleness gives way to discontent, which often leads to gadding about from house to house, becoming tattlers, and busybodies, speaking things, which they ought not (See Vs. 13). Rather than allowing this sinful conduct to take place, Paul says that the younger women, having become widows, should marry once again, accept, and diligently discharge the God-given responsibilities of a wife and mother (See Vs. 14). Certainly this is God's will, and, at the same time, will allow a young widow to avoid the sinfulness inherent in idleness. It is evident that becoming idle had already taken place with some young widows, because Paul wrote that some are already turned aside to Satan (Vs. 15).

Here is Paul's conclusion to this matter. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed (Vs. 16). If a faithful, believing Christian man or woman has a relative that is a widow, it is their responsibility to provide for their support, if at all possible, considering their health and financial ability to do so. Properly discharging this responsibility relieves the church of Christ from this obligation, allowing the church to support, more fully, those that truly qualify as widows indeed.