New Testament giving – Widows support

Another area where support in the New Testament was directed was to true widows. Widows in the Bible are those women that lost their husbands though death. Now some of you may be surprised that we have to clarify this at all. I do it because I read somewhere that this word supposedly also includes those women that are separated or divorced from their husbands. Though these women do need brotherly support from the believers, they cannot be classified as widows. “Widow” in the Bible - and as a Greek word in general – is the woman that lost her husband through death.

Having made this clear, it is shown throughout the Bible that widows have a special place in God’s heart. Here are some passages from the Old Testament:


Exodus 20:22
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry;”


Deuteronomy 10:17-18
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.


Deuteronomy 14:17-21
“You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow's garment as a pledge …. "When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.


As we also saw previously tithes also had widows as recipients:


Deuteronomy 26:12-13
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.”


Deuteronomy 27:19
“'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.' "And all the people shall say, 'Amen!'”


Psalms 146:9
“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.”


Proverbs 15:25
“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, But He will establish the boundary of the widow.


Isaiah 1:17
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.


Jeremiah 7:6-7
“if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.”


Jeremiah 22:3
Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow.


Zechariah 7:9-10
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The stranger or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.'”


I believe these many passages of Scripture make clear how much the widows, together with the orphans and the stranger are in the heart of the Lord. This is carried on in the New Testament too. We read in Acts 6:1 that a complaint “arose against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” By distribution is meant the distribution that was done to everybody, out of the common fund the church had established and according to their needs. Nobody was to be neglected, but the widows even more so, as they were people for whom special care was needed.

The New Testament treats extensively the matter of widows and the support to them in I Timothy 5. There we read:


I Timothy 5:3
“Honor widows who are really widows.”


The honor as we explained earlier about honoring elders includes also material support. Not all widows are to have this honor though. The mere fact that a woman is a widow does not obviously make her a real widow to whom honor is to be given. What is the distinction? Paul makes it clear:


I Timothy 5:5-6
“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”


There is the widow that trusts in God, whose hope is God and expectantly prays to Him, continually, “night and day”. But there is also the widow that her life style is worldly. The phrase “lives in pleasure” is the Greek word “spatalao”. “Spatalao” means “to live riotously” (Vine’s dictionary, p. 871). The noun form of the verb (“spatali”) means “excessive riotousness, vain, excessive spending of wealth” (Mega Lexicon of the Greek Language, p. 6621). Such widows, widows that have a world-centered vain life style, widows that live riotously, are not real widows. It is not to these widows that honor is due.

Having made this clear from the outset, Paul makes also clear that the children or the grandchildren of the real widows are the first that have responsibility for them. Here is what he says:


I Timothy 5:4, 7-8
“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. … And these things command, that they may be blameless. 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.”


There is a clear responsibility of the children for their parents, including grandparents. As the Word says, the children are “to repay their parents”. And as Vine mentions in his dictionary about this word:


“The word “repay” is the Greek word “amoive” that means “recompense (akin to ameibomai, to repay, not found in the New Testament), is used with the verb “apodidomi”, to render, in I Tim. 5:4. This use is illustrated in the papyri by way of making a return, conferring a benefaction in return for something” (Vine’s dictionary p. 967).


There is an obligation of children and grandchildren towards their parents. This is the obligation to “honor their parents” which includes caring for them and their welfare. In the case of widows, their children and grandchildren should take care of them and their needs. Caring for your own and your household is a priority and in fact an obligation each one of us has. I think we touched on this previously: this kind of “giving” has pre-eminence over any other kind of giving. Other kinds of giving are voluntary contributions. This one is not. This one is an obligation. There is no option here. This shows how much importance God gives to it. If you are a believer you have to “render re-compensation” to your parents (and grandparents), meaning taking care of them and their needs. And so that no doubt is left verse 8 says: “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.” This is really serious.

Moving further on the matter of widows, the Word of God tells us more about the participation of the church concerning the care of the widows:


I Timothy 5:9-16
“Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan. 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.”


There is a “number” (Greek: katalaigo = enroll) in which some widows were to be included and some others were not. What is this “number”, this enrolment ? Though Paul does not mention it explicitly, it appears to be something familiar to Timothy and I believe it was the number of the widows to be supported by the church. Not all widows were to be in this number but only the old ones, 60 years old and above, and under certain additional conditions. For the younger widows, Paul, and God through His Word, desires that they get married again and bear children. The last verse of the above passage sums it up: if anyone has widows in his family, he should relieve them and not let the church be burdened with their support. However the church would indeed support the older widows that were real widows according to the conditions given in the previous verses and if there was nobody else from their family able or willing to give them the necessary support.


Tassos Kioulachoglou






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