1 Timothy 5:3-16
On the Care of Widows
Several years ago when I was serving as pastor, the church had a benevolence fund that was for use of people in need of help. The funds were garnered from the offering collected on the first Sunday of each month in which the church observed communion; an excellent arrangement, or so it seemed. In practice, what happened was that our church acquired a reputation for having this fund which was generally wiped out every month paying the bills of people in the community who never darkened the door of any church and apparently had no intention of doing so. Well, The deacons and I began a study the “pastoral letters” (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) and came to the conclusion that the money collected on “Communion Sunday” should be used to aid our own people (especially widows) who had been faithful to the church for years. By doing this, the fund was allowed to grow and we were eventually able to help a faithful widow in our own small church with a bill which amounted to a few thousand dollars. I’ll never question the rightness of that decision. (And by the way, a separate fund maintained the by the ministers of all the town’s churches provided for general poor relief.)
I will not delve into the specifics of this passage but only say that it primarily teaches us two things: 1) Those aged women who have served the church faithfully for a number of years who have both limited means and familial support should be cared for by the church at least to the extent that the church can render such aid; and 2) Those families which are able to see to the care of their older relatives have a sacred obligation to do so. We need not get caught up in details as if the Apostle were providing a checklist; in other words, as if she should be struck from the list who never married or married more than once and never had children—just as Paul did not intend in his qualifications for elders that they must be married with children. These are general principles emphasizing the care of “widows indeed” who are aged, indigent, and forlorn, but who have been faithful servants to the Lord and His church. It is simply scandalous that the church would not see to the care of these. At the same time, it is even more scandalous that families with the means would not return the debt of kindness to their parents for all the years of care unto them.
We live in a society which has taken this burden from churches for the most part. I don’t know if that is for better or worse. But let not churches ever feel that their burden is lifted to care for those who have cared for her.