Pastor David B. Curtis

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Caring for Widows

1 Timothy 5:3-8

Delivered 05/14/2000

How you think is a critical issue. As Christians, we must learn to think Biblically. The mind is the command center which determines our conduct based upon how we have been influenced to think. We are inundated today with the thinking of our society, and I don't think we have the ability to think straight about a lot of subjects. And one of those subjects is that of the woman's role in society. I believe that Scripture tells us that God has designed women to be cared for by men. Women are to be under the protection, provision and care of their father or husband. Women are nowhere in Scripture taught, in principle or example, that they are to provide for themselves. Woman are to be cared for.

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV) Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

This verse gives us the husband's responsibility. We are to understand our wives - this is a life long endeavor. Women are to be cared for, protected, and provided for by men as the "weaker" vessel.

Now, "weaker vessel" is not a question of spiritual strength, or intellectual strength, or strength of character, but I think the idea of "weaker vessel" is referring to emotional and physical strength.

Let me give you some Old Testament scriptures that may help you see this. Speaking of Egypt's weakness, Isaiah says this:

Isaiah 19:16 (NKJV) In that day Egypt will be like women, and will be afraid and fear because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He waves over it.

Isaiah is here emphasizing that Egypt is vulnerable, unprotected, and weak. That was God who said that, not me. Don't get upset with me, women; this is God's Word. Speaking of Babylon, Jeremiah says:

Jeremiah 50:37 (NKJV) A sword is against their horses, Against their chariots, And against all the mixed peoples who are in her midst; And they will become like women. A sword is against her treasures, and they will be robbed.

God is here saying that when he moves against Babylon, they will be weak, helpless - like women.

Jeremiah 51:30 (NKJV) The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, They have remained in their strongholds; Their might has failed, They became like women; They have burned her dwelling places, The bars of her gate are broken.

Here he is saying that their might had failed, they were in weakness - like women.

Speaking against Nineveh, Nahum says:

Nahum 3:13 (NKJV) Surely, your people in your midst are women! The gates of your land are wide open for your enemies; Fire shall devour the bars of your gates.

He is saying that, like women, they cannot defend themselves. Women, according to God, are the "weaker vessel." God, the Creator, created the woman as the weaker vessel. Whether women want to admit it or not, whether they like it or not, makes no difference. God has designed women with a strong need to have provision and protection given to them by a man in exchange for loving service rendered to that man.

There is a difference between the sexes, men and women are different. But our society is doing everything possible to destroy the distinction between the sexes. Believers, I don't think that you should have to closely scrutinize a person to tell whether they are male or female. Men ought to look like men, and women ought to look like women. God created the sexes to be distinct.

God is committed to the care of women and so should his people be. Eliphaz in trying to condemn Job and explain why he was in such a bad state said:

Job 22:9 (NKJV) You have sent widows away empty, And the strength of the fatherless was crushed.

He was trying to accuse Job of the worse sin he could think of.

Speaking against the sins of Judah, God says:

Isaiah 1:23 (NKJV) Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

This was a great sin in God's eyes, not to care for women who had no one to care for them. Women are always to be the special object of protection, provision, and care.

Strikingly beautiful is what the Scriptures teach in regard to widows. They are under God's special care and protection.

Exodus 22:22-24 (NKJV) "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 "If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 "and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

God says that he will come against those who mistreat widows. In the ancient society, the widows and fatherless had no one to protect or care for them, and therefore, God always took up their cause.

Deuteronomy 10:18 (NKJV) "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.

The Scripture teaches that God provides for widows; they were allowed to glean the fields after the harvest, according to Deut. 24:19-22. They were also to share a portion of the third year tithe with the Levites, according to Deut. 26:12. God blesses those who help and honor them according to Isa. 1:17 and Jer. 7:6. God rebukes and punishes those who hurt them (Deut. 24:17, Zech. 7:10, Job 24:3). We must see that God cares for widows.

God's care for widows is a reoccurring theme in Scripture. The nation Israel had sought to care for widows, because they understood the heart of God. Jewish law laid down that at the time of his marriage, a man ought to make provision for his wife, should she become a widow. Men, have you made provision for your wife should she become a widow?

Widows are also the objects of Christ's tender compassion, as is clear from the gospels.

Luke 7:11-15 (NKJV) Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 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. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 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." 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

Here is a widow with no one to care for her, so the Lord stops a funeral procession and raises her dead son so that he can care for her. This woman was alone, unprotected with no one to care for her, so the Lord raises the dead just so she would have a man to take care of her.

Notice Jesus' word's as he hung on the cross dying for our sins. Jesus is in great agony, and in the midst of his pain, he makes sure his mother is cared for.

John 19:26-27 (NKJV) When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus had brothers and sisters, but they were not believers, so he puts John in charge of caring for his mother. From that day, John took Mary into his own home and took care of her. The heart of God is that widows are cared for. God cares for widows, the nation Israel cared for widows, Jesus cared for widows. And caring for widows was an important ministry in the early church.

Acts 6:1 (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.

The first ministry that the early church developed was to care for the widows. They didn't start a building program or a Christian school, they cared for the widows. Ignatius lays it down, "Let not widows be neglected after the Lord be thou their guardian."

Acts 9:36-41 (NKJV) At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. 37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

I believe that this is the only account in scripture where a believer is the recipient of the miraculous sign gifts of the Spirit. This resurrection wasn't for the sake of Dorcas but for the sake of the widows that she helped care for (verse 39). So, we see two resurrections in the New Testament that resulted in the benefit of widows. God cares about those women who have no one to care for them.

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.

James tells us what pure religion (external observances) is. The acceptableness of our religious practices is not determined by variable human opinion or man made tradition but by that which is acceptable in God's presence.

Pure religion boils down to two things; love and holiness. Love is not an abstract emotion but is an action. The word "visit" denotes more than a friendly social call. In Jewish usage, it commonly denoted to visit with the aim of caring for and supplying the needs of those visited. "Orphans and widows" represented the two most needy classes in ancient society. They had lost their protector and provider and were subject to much affliction. And James tells us the "pure religion" is caring for the needy - orphans and widows.

God cares for widows, the nation Israel cared for widows, Jesus cared for widows, the New Testament church cared for widows. They are the special object of God's concern. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul goes into a very lengthy discussion on our responsibility to care for widows. And this is a very pertinent word for the church today. The 21st century church desperately needs to hear this message. In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, the underlying thought, unstated in the text, is that God has designed women as the weaker vessel, and therefore, they are to be cared for.

1 Timothy 5:3 (NKJV) Honor widows who are really widows.

To help us understand this verse, we need to understand the purpose of this letter. This letter was written to instruct believers how to conduct themselves in the church.

1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NKJV) These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

So, honoring widows is a basic ministry of the Church. We are to care for widows. This is the church's responsibility, according to verse 3. The word "widow" has a much broader meaning than we may think. We think of a widow as someone who's husband died. The Greek word for widow includes that, but it is not limited to that. Widow is from the noun chera, which is the feminine form of the adjective cheros and means: "bereft, robbed, having suffered loss." She is alone, without a husband. This includes a woman who has lost her husband in any fashion; death, divorce, desertion or prison, or we could add sea duty. A woman is bereft who is without a husband. That is the word "widow". This expands our responsibility greatly. We are to care for women who have no man to care for them. It doesn't matter what happened to the man. He didn't have to die, he could have taken off.

Verse 3 says to honor widows who are "really widows." What does that mean?

1 Timothy 5:5 (NKJV) Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.

Verse 5 explains a "real widow". It says that she is "left alone"- this is a passive participle meaning: "having been left alone"- there is no idea of death here. This is a woman who has no head, she is left alone. There were no secular institutions in that day to care for the widows.

I think that, for the most part, the church today has abdicated it's responsibility. We have abandoned true religion and are busy in man made religion. The church today is too busy building monuments to men, elaborate superstructures and quasi Christian Disney lands, to care about what is dear to God's heart - true religion. Much of the church today is like the Scribes of Luke 20 which devour widow's houses instead of caring for them.

How are we to treat widows? HONOR them!

Honor is from the Greek word timao, which means: "to estimate, fix the value, to honor, revere, venerate, to meet needs whatever they are." In Matt. 27, the word is used of pricing something and placing value on it.

Matthew 27:9 (NKJV) Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,

Honoring widows implies financial support.

Could we see a woman who was bereft, all alone with no means of support, and honor her without helping her? NO! Jesus used the word timao in Matthew 15:1-9 to mean financial support. Paul used it the same way in Acts 28:10. Honor includes financial support. So, to honor widows means to support them.

Who is to be supported?

It says those who are "really widows." This means: "those who are truly alone, truly without resources." Not all widows are in this state. Some have been left provided for. Our country has welfare because of its Christian influence. We pay into welfare, and I think it is okay for a widow to use it. But where it's not enough, we are to come along and help.

Verses 3 is giving us the church's responsibility, we are to honor widows. Just for clarification, who is the church? We are, believers! It's not, "Let Berean Bible Church take care of it", you are BBC.

Now in verse 4, he gives the family's responsibilities.

1 Timothy 5:4 (NKJV) 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.

When the woman has no one to care for her, it is the church's responsibility to do it. "But if she has children or grandchildren" - the Greek words here are tekna and ekgona, which are general words for offspring. If they have any children or grandchildren, they are to care for them. The text says "let them."Many widows in the church have children and grandchildren, and it is their responsibility to support that widow. It is not the church's job, it is their job. Look at verse 16:

1 Timothy 5:16 (NKJV) 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.

In other words, don't burden the church with caring for a widow who has relatives that can care for her. The responsibility falls first on the relatives. These scriptures are pretty clear, aren't they?

Verse 4 says the children are to "first" care for them. The word "first" is from the Greek word proton, which points this obligation as their first and natural one. The home is the proving ground for godliness. This is the first place that your Christianity should be demonstrated. Too often it is the last. True religion starts at home.

The text says that they are to "repay their parents". The word "repay" is the Greek word amoibe, which means: "to throw off, to give off from." It is used of discharging one's obligations. The word "parents" is a general word for progenitor, it would include parents, grandparents and great grand parents.

Those of us who have living parents who are aged should realize that they cared for us when we could not care for ourselves. We owe it to them to care for them. Do we need to be told this? Yes, because we have become so selfish and materialistic that we neglect caring for our elders.

According to a Dutch proverb, it frequently seems easier for one poor father to bring up ten children than for ten rich children to provide for one poor father. In our society, we are quickly losing all respect for the elderly.

Why are we to care for widows? Look at the end of verse 4, "for this is good and acceptable before God." This is the fifth commandment:

Exodus 20:12 (NKJV) "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

This is what God cares about. He repeats it in the New Testament.

Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

This commandment has a promise - "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

God promises blessings to those who honor their parents.

So, we have an obligation as a church to support widows that are "real widows." And we have an obligation as believers to support anyone in our family that is a widow.

Then Paul gives the obligation to evaluate who the church is to support.

1 Timothy 5:5 (NKJV) Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.

The word "now" is the Greek word de, it is an adversative, pointing to the contrast between the widow of verse 4 who has relatives to take care of her and the widow o f verse 5 who does not.

It says she is "left alone" - there is no child or grandchildren or anyone else to care for her. If she's never had a husband and she's single, she's to be cared for by her father. It is my view that a woman should be under the care of her father until he hands her over to a husband to care for her. Because God has intended that women be cared for. They are not to be out on their own.

The widows who are real widows are clarified in verse 5. He gives us two conditions for real widows.

1 Timothy 5:5 (NKJV) Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.

1. She has no family or outside help, she is alone. She has no one to help provide for her.

2. She has her hope fixed on God, which distinguishes her from non-Christian widows. It says that she "trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day." She is a committed believer. She knows the truth taught in:

Jeremiah 49:11 (NKJV) Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me."

She is like the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.

1 Kings 17:8-16 (NKJV) Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink." 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 12 So she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." 13 And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 "For thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.'" 15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.

This is an example of a widow whose hope is fixed on God. This story is not about a widow who cares for Elijah, this is about God caring for a widow and Elijah. God could have provided for Elijah in many different ways, but he provided for the widow as he cared for Elijah.

Our text says that this widow "continues in supplications and prayers night and day." The emphasis rests on the fact that her praying is not a now and then affair. She is a godly woman whose life of piety is evident. She reminds us of the widow Anna in:

Luke 2:36-37 (NKJV) Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

This widow is not just a believer, she is a committed disciple of Jesus Christ. This is a widow who is to be supported by the church. The church is not to support every woman who has lost her husband, we may choose to help others, but we must help "real widows."

1 Timothy 5:6 (NKJV) But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.

"But", on the other hand, the woman who "lives in pleasure" is a reference to immoral living. In the ancient world, many widows were tempted to resort to immoral living as a means of support. The verb translated "pleasure" is spatalao, it is used only here and in James 5:5 where it is translated, "pleasure and luxury." It is used in the LXX in Ezk.16:49 of daughters of Sodom. The idea here is that this widow is given to riotous pleasure, mad living.

The text says that she is, "dead while she lives." Dead is used here metaphorically of the loss of communion with God. This woman is out of fellowship with God. Weust, in his literal Greek, translates this: "living, having died, with the present result that she is dead." She is alive physically but she is dead in the sense of her relationship towards God. Her faith has died.

James 2:17 (NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Whatever her commitment to the Lord might have been at one time, it is now gone. Like the seed that fell on rocky ground, she falls away in times of persecution and temptation.

Luke 8:11-15 (NKJV) "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 "But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 "Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

The word "fall away" in verse 13 is the Greek word aphistemi, which is a departure from the faith. It is used of a Christian who turns their back on God.

Maybe she lost her husband through divorce or death and instead of looking to the Lord and letting her heart be stayed upon Jehovah and understanding that all things work together for good, she becomes bitter, and she turns from her faith, and her faith dies. She is living physically, but she is dead in her fellowship to God.

The Bible says that we are not responsible to help this widow. Why are we not obligated to help this widow? Because, we don't want to disrupt the chastening hand of God on sin. When we aid people in sin, we just encourage their sin. Built into sin is its own destruction.

1 Timothy 5:7 (NKJV) And these things command, that they may be blameless.

This is not a request or suggestion; this is a command. Timothy is to see to it that the church honors "real widows"; those who are dependent and deserving widows (verses 3 & 5); and that children and grandchildren do their duty to their parents (verse 4); and that everyone knows how to distinguish between the widow who should be honored and the widow who should not be honored (verses 5-6).

If they obey these commands, they will be above reproach, both from the side of the world and from the side of the church. Our testimony is at stake. WE are to be obeying these commands today that we may be blameless. He tells Timothy to command the church to care for real widows and then he says:

1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV) 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.

You can miss some things in Scripture, but you have a hard time missing this. "But" - if they don't obey the command to care for widows. This is the same thought of verse 4, children are to care for their widows. If anyone fails to care for widows, they are denying the faith of Christianity and are worse than an unbeliever.

The word "provide" is a compound word made up of "pro" (in front of or prior to) and noieo (to exercise the mind). The idea here is: "To consider in advance, to look out for before hand." The literal meaning is: "taking thought in advance to provide by seeing needs in advance." This includes the fact that, men, you are to provide for your family in the event of your death - life insurance.

The text says, "his own" - this is vague and includes friends and relatives that you know have needs. Then it says, "especially for those of his household." Notice that the word "his" is a masculine pronoun. Men, it is our responsibility to do the providing. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that it is the woman's responsibility to do the providing.

When we fail to provide for our own, the Bible says that we are WORSE than an unbeliever. This text isn't complicated, is it? You can just read it and get the meaning. Paul is telling Timothy that the church and the family have an obligation to support widows.

Notice what verse 14 says:

1 Timothy 5:14 (NKJV) Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

To the younger widows, who had lost their means of support, Paul says, "Get married." Paul doesn't tell Timothy to tell the younger widows to get a job or find a carrier. What he does tell them is, "Find a man!" Because it is the man's job to provide for the woman. Women are not to provide for themselves. There is no mention in this passage of a woman getting a job to support herself. Paul never says, "Find that widow a job." When Jesus was dying on the cross, he committed the care of his mother to John - he didn't say, "Hey, Mom, get a job." No, he told John to take care of her.

Does this sound strange to you, that women are to be cared for by men? This sounds a little male chauvinistic - doesn't it? This shows us how far our society has drifted by the biblical norm.

If you have trouble accepting these principles, it's because you are a part of a society that has been victimized by a Godless, Christless, non-biblical philosophy of living. What we are seeing in our society today is a result of the French revolution. They believed in a society where there was absolute equality; it was a classless, Godless kind of human existence. And the church, instead of rejecting it, has bought into it wholeheartedly.

These truths about caring for widows are not a suggestion that might make life better, they are commanded by the God who created us.

1 Timothy 5:7 (NKJV) And these things command, that they may be blameless.

Let's remember Jesus' words:

John 14:15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.

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