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"What ladies did you spend your afternoon with today?" Alaine started asking me this question many years ago. She knows my routine. Typically, I work in the office in the mornings; in the afternoon I'm on the road, making shut-in visits. Paula, Pat, Sally, Lila, Rita, Sylvia, Marge, and Bonnie are among those whom I visit. All eight of these women have something in common; they are widows.
The church has long shown special care and concern for widows. It does so because God has long demonstrated his regard for the same. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read: "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Moses goes on to write about the Lord's institution of a social security system for his people: "At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."
Centuries later, David writes, "A father to the fatherless, a defender or widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families...." As a matter of fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that is about how the Lord took care of one widow. Her name was Naomi. The book of Ruth is actually all about her. Naomi happens to be the great-grandmother of David (and of Jesus as well).
Naomi isn't the only individual widow mentioned in the Old Testament. The Lord directed Elijah to the widow of Zarephath. The Lord used his prophet to save both the woman and her son. Jesus himself later comments on the extraordinary care that was shown to this particular widow. (You can read about this for yourself in 1 Kings 17 and Luke 4:24-27.)
Speaking of the New Testament, two widows receive special mention in the Gospel of Luke. You can read about Anna's faith in Luke 2:21-38. Luke also records the remarkable act of love and faith of another widow (21:1-4).
As I mentioned earlier, the church has long shown special care and concern for widows. It has done so from the very beginning. Luke writes about this in Acts 6:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
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Later, the apostle Paul spoke at some length about the care of widows in the early church. Here is what he had to say in his first letter to Timothy:
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
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.
If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read: "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:26-27)
Nailed to the cross, Jesus made sure that his mother would have someone to look after her.
We don't know when it happened, (Scripture is silent on the subject), but Mary was almost certainly widowed by the time she stood watching her son die. John writes:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.