By Dr. Donald Whitchard
If you have not read part one you can find it here:
If you have not read part two you can find it here:
If you have not read part three you can find it here:
If you have not read part four you can find it here:
If you have not read part five you can find it here:
If you have not read part six you can find it here:
If you have not read part seven you can find it here:
If you have not read part eight you can find it here:
If you have not read part nine you can find it here:
“Honor widows who are really widows. 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. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplication and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 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 feet of the saints; 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 saying things that they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, and 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 them who are really widows.”
– 1 Timothy 5:3-16 (NKJV)
When writing to the churches concerning procedures, corrections, and the teaching of sound doctrine, the apostle Paul leaves nothing to chance nor does he leave any important issue open- ended and susceptible to misinterpretation and unorthodox practices as a result. Paul wanted to give Timothy specific steps to take in both the teaching of the Scriptures and how to effectively care for the well-being of those who made up the flock of believers in Ephesus. The verses that we will be examining deal with aspects of effective pastoral care.
Attention is given here to the care of widows and the role that families and others play in performing this essential ministry. As we read further, we notice that Paul does not define the term pastoral care to mean entitlement or a form of welfare that takes the place of a means of income that the individual can accomplish on his own. He makes it clear in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that everyone is expected to work if they want to eat. Any charge made by politicians or social critics that the early church engaged in a type of socialist care system could not be further from the truth. If you go back to John 6 where the Lord Jesus had fed over 5, 000 people, not including women and children, that same crowd was there the next morning with the idea that Jesus was going to miraculously provide the morning meal.
They were following Him not because of His claim to be the Messiah, but to them, He was a provider who could overthrow Rome with such power. His teaching on the Bread of Life and the requirements of following Him were too much for the fickle bunch and they all left Him save for the Twelve. This behavior has found its way into the modern Christian world and the “prosperity gospel” that turns our LORD into a wish granter to make people happy without the demands of following Him and what He expects of anyone who claims to be His disciple. I have said plenty over the time that I have contributed to the varied websites that carry these articles and studies concerning the wretched individuals that preach this error and will end up in hell for their lies, greed, and deception of the poor and helpless in the name of religion. Matthew 7:21-23 fits them to a tee.
Back to the main issue. The care of widows did not just involve the church, but was a shared responsibility. Family members and widows themselves bore some of the burden. The first line of care was the immediate family, who were to show reverence and affection for the widowed parent and look out for their needs. The care of the aged parent was expected of the grown children as a payment for the work and sacrifice of the parent as the children were growing up. The father was to be the main provider for the family and was expected to carry out that function within the respective community and society. A lazy man who did not work to support his family and claimed to be a Christian was worse than a pagan worshipping an idol with gifts of money and food placed before its altar. There was absolutely no excuse for any man who had a family not to work in some capacity, even if it was as a day laborer (Matthew 20:1-16).
If a widow could serve in some capacity in the church and be an asset to the brethren, it was encouraged. However, there were some specific requirements for widows to receive care from the church. They had to be married to one man, no multiple marriages that involved household inheritances and a means of self-support. They had to be sixty years old and over, which was around the maximum age of longevity in the ancient world and weren’t able to work. If they had shown sound evidence of their walk with the LORD in the service of the body and the care of others, they were qualified to receive care as a reward for their labors over the years that produced good fruit among the brethren and was a sound testimony of a life dedicated to Christ.
Young widows were another matter. Paul instructed Timothy that they were to receive assistance for a time in order to adjust to the situation of loss and set their house in order. However, Paul encourages them to get married again and have a family in order not to end up wasting their lives in gossip and idleness, which could be used by the devil to destroy their testimonies but also their lives if carried to an extreme. Young people need to understand that tragedies are no excuse to quit working and performing expected duties to their families and employers as well as the church they attend and hold worship. Inactivity after any sudden loss is a breeding ground for sinful behavior and a drift away from the fellowship. This is sound advice for anyone. Good pastors will see to this and is a strong factor in the task of shepherding Christ’s church.
You can find part eleven here:
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.