Gods Care For Widows

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

It is good to be reminded that God’s original provision for mankind – His creatures whom He placed at the head of His creation on earth – was that they would live as man and wife with a family under ideal conditions in a wonderful garden. This garden had at its center the Tree of Life, which the New Testament indicates is a picture of Christ (consider Mt. 18:20; Rev. 22:1-2,14). Nearby was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God told Adam that the fruit of every tree in the garden was available to eat except this latter tree. The garden was intended for human happiness, which comes from a right relationship with God – recognizing who God is and taking our place as His creatures in submission to Him.

Our first parents failed in this very early in their lives, even before they were expecting children, and as a consequence death came into the world. To protect them from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in their sinful condition, God expelled them from the garden and guarded it lest they re-enter. Life was no longer ideal. Spiritual death – alienation from God – was the immediate consequence. Physical death followed, whether after many years of life as seen with the early patriarchs listed in Genesis 5, or much earlier through violent means as was the case with Abel who was killed by his brother Cain (Gen. 4). Despite all of mankind’s knowledge and inventiveness, death is normally the inevitable consequence – the “wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23 NKJV). Enoch’s translation, meaning the manner in which God took him to Himself and which is a type of the rapture of God’s saints that we today are awaiting, is an exception to this normal occurrence (Gen. 5:21-24).

The Care Of Widows 
The Bible gives Christians teaching about the care of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. “She who is really a widow and left alone” in the full sense of the word is defined as one who “trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (v.5). God gives the privileged place of caring for a widow’s needs to her children and other descendants first. If such are lacking, the local assembly (church) is responsible to do this ministry. God does not make this a function of the government, although some might argue that this could well be a task for “God’s minister to you for good,” as government is termed in Romans 13:4.

Younger widows are encouraged to “marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14). In principle, the assembly is not to take on the responsibility of supporting widows under sixty years of age. Even if these younger widows – apparently without young children – do not remarry, they are often still able to work to support themselves. Older widows are expected to have lived a life of godliness and concern for the needs of others. These principles are given us as guidelines rather than inflexible rules, for the circumstances of each individual must be taken into consideration. The assembly is to relieve those who are really widows, and it should not be burdened to take on the support of widows who might technically meet the qualifications but are not in actual need of support.

Widows In Scripture 
As we go through Scripture we find many widows, both godly and ungodly. God in His infinite wisdom and marvelous grace cared for those who trusted Him, working in different ways to meet their individual needs.

Naomi, an elderly widow, upon returning to Bethlehem was supported initially by her daughter-in-law Ruth, who was herself a young widow. Ruth went out each day to glean, a task which was not easy. She worked hard to provide for herself and her mother-in-law as there was no government system of a dole, or allotment. God’s principle is that “if anyone will not [not cannot] work, neither shall he eat” (2 Th. 3:10). While this is plainly stated in the New Testament, we see this principle applied in the Old Testament as well. God rewarded Ruth’s loving diligence and trust in Him by bringing into her life a wonderful kinsman-redeemer, who in time became her husband. God gave this couple a child who was also a comfort to Naomi in her old age, and who ultimately became an ancestor of King David and of our Lord Jesus Christ. How marvelously God worked things together for good to these two widows who, Scripture tells us, came back to Bethlehem-Judah and to the Lord God of Israel! Orpah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, turned back to her people and her gods and was not heard from again. The whole story is found in the book of Ruth.

In 1 Samuel 25 we read of Abigail, who was beautiful, wise and godly. In the days of her marriage with wicked Nabal, she had sought to protect her husband from David’s anger, and in doing so she gave David spiritual advice. After Nabal was struck by the Lord and died, David took Abigail to be his wife – a fitting reward for this humble young widow.

God tells us that He cares for the fatherless as well as for the needs of the widows. He daily provided for the needs of the heathen widow at Zarephath whom He was using to provide for the needs of His prophet Elijah. He used Elijah to give her son back to her after the boy had died, and thus brought her to acknowledge Him as the true God (1 Ki. 17).

A widow of one of the sons of the prophets found her family in a sorrowful situation, as we read in 2 Kings 4:1-7. “The creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves,” she cried to Elisha. The Lord would not let this happen if she in faith followed His prophet Elisha’s directions. God provided wonderfully for this family, providing in such a way that both the widow and her sons were able to see the Lord’s good hand and appreciate His provision for their material needs.

In 2 Kings 8:1-6 God timed things perfectly in the case of the Shunammite woman who had earlier obeyed His word (4:8-37). At this point she was seeking to regain her property after being gone for seven years. There we read: “The king appointed a certain officer for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, and all the proceeds of the field from the day that she left the land until now’” (v.6). God loves to reward faith, and He certainly will remain no man’s – or widow’s – debtor!

Jesus in His pity not only told the widow at Nain walking in the funeral procession of her only son not to weep, but He gave her the joy of having her son restored to her alive in Luke 7. Later in that same book (21:1-4; Mk. 12:41-44), we find Him sitting opposite the temple treasury and noting what was happening there. Rich people were casting in gold and silver out of their surplus. Jesus commended a poor widow to His disciples, telling them that she had given more than all the rich, for she had given all that she had to live on. Certainly the Lord and Savior would provide for this widow’s needs.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood with other women at the cross, along with His disciple John, who the evening before had leaned upon His breast at the supper table. Jesus’ half-brothers did not believe on Him (Jn. 7:5). It is deeply touching to see how, amid His tremendous suffering, He tenderly entrusted the care of His mother to this disciple, and how this disciple then took her to his own home and cared for her (Jn. 19:25-27). Our parting glimpse of this honored woman is in Acts 1:14 where she and Jesus’ brothers, who evidently got saved after His resurrection, are found in earnest, united prayer together with His disciples.

Concern For Widows 
The early Church was concerned about its widows. The apostles themselves at first “waited on tables,” looking after their needs, but they soon delegated this service to seven men chosen by the assembly for this purpose (Acts 6:1-7).

Many widows at Joppa mourned after the death of Dorcas, also known as Tabitha. She had made garments for them, which was a lovely service. God used Peter to raise her from the dead, assuredly to the widows’ great joy (9:36-41).

Concluding Thoughts 
Throughout Scripture we see the importance of widows to our compassionate God. He cares and provides for them through their relatives and believers – part of that greater family, the family of God – who share His mind about them. He wants widows, like all of us, to trust in Him. The Lord understands their feelings. He loves to bless them and seeks to use them in blessing others.