Showing Compassion to Widows

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:3-8)

Unfortunately we sometimes forget that our God is a good and gracious God. If you are here today and you are a born again believer, then you should know and I should know and be constantly reminded of His goodness. If He were not good, none of us would belong to Him and none of us would one day share in His glory forever in a perfect heaven and a new earth. Salvation is and will be a lasting reminder of His goodness toward us.

In the news we read stories about heroes. If we look for them, we can find stories of how individuals, men and women at risk to their own lives, how they willingly rescue someone from danger. We applaud such action, and we should! With most terror attacks there are also heroes helping the needy. With every natural disaster, there are heroes to be found. Our policemen, firemen, emergency medical teams, all heroes helping others. There is something refreshing about one who thinks more highly of another and in the face of peril acts to save another. Movies are created to reenact such efforts. Superheroes who save the day, save the planet, save people. There is something in us that appreciates such selflessness. Even is if it is a totally unrealistic movie, we still like it.

But there is no greater rescue that has taken place than that of God reaching down and saving a lost, dying, depraved sinner. It is the ultimate rescue. It is a rescue of an eternal nature, a rescue that will afford us great promises. It is an exchange from a hell that we deserve to a future where God will continually pour out His grace and kindness on us forever. We will experience the ultimate pleasure, the ultimate peace, ultimate joy, ultimate contentment, ultimate rest, all of this in the presence of our ultimate hero, our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. God is a gracious and a good God, reaching down to the needy, saving men and women from their sins.

So in an eternal sense, God is good and He is gracious. But as a picture of such goodness that will last forever, He is also good and gracious on this earth. He cares for His people even now. And God is particularly concerned with those who may be in a tough spot in life, those who may be considered most vulnerable in our society. Jesus gave us an ultimate example of this in the story of the good Samaritan.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)

What is the point to that story that Jesus told? Well, He was answering a question about who our neighbors are, and He answered it with this story basically saying everyone is our neighbor and we are to do good to all. In this case, Jesus tells of one who had been beaten and abused and who was in great need. These are those we are to help, we are to look out for those who are suffering and we are to step in and help them. And many times these will be those who cannot provide for their own care. Jesus is concerned for those who are hurting, vulnerable, and in need of help. Not just in a spiritual sense but also in a very practical, day to day living sense. And since this is true we have passages like ours today where we get to see the compassion of God on display toward a certain group of people who have great need. This is Jesus reaching out to the needy, using His people to show His love, to show His compassion. In this we also get to see what we can do, in the name of Christ to come alongside people in need.

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:3-8)

Who are the needy in this passage? Widows. True widows are to receive honor. What is meant by honor? Well it is more than simply respect. This word would include respect, but it means much more than that, especially given the following context. Honor here is a command to provide support that honor demands. To honor someone is not just to mentally think well of them. To honor is to, yes, think well of, but also to do some things that are fitting to honor. It includes to act a certain way toward them. If you honor your parents then you put some action to it. Maybe if they are elderly you visit them, you help them with what they can’t do. You offer the precious and valuable resource of your time to them. We can say we honor, but do we really? This honor is to assist or to aid.

So Paul says to honor the true widows who are among you. This idea of understanding honor is important because we may mistakingly think it simply means to recognize someone. We do that sometimes. Maybe we have a banquet honoring someone, and that is all it is, maybe that is more of respect. To honor is to go further, it is to include assistance or needed aid.

Going back to the idea of honoring parents, we may think of honor then as a family issue, a blood relative issue. But as we have already seen in verses 1 and 2, we are in a spiritual sense all family. Honor in this sense includes those who may not necessarily be blood relatives.

Paul qualifies widows as “real widows.” What is a real widow? In this context, first of all a widow appears to be an actual widow whose husband has died, and not just a single woman who is single for whatever the cause may be. And further, a real widow here could mean also a widow who is in need. We get that from verse 5: “She who is truly a widow, left all alone.” And the implication is she has no family to care for her, we see that from verse 4: “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household.” And so a real widow is one whose husband has died and she has no family to care for her needs.

Again, we see that God is interested in making sure that people are cared for. And I think it is great to see this, to see how God does this and even how He gives us an order of priority when it comes to caring for this particular group of people. Here is the priority….

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. (1 Timothy 5:3-4)

This first condition regarding honoring, helping, aiding widows deals with the widow’s family members. This is where we see guidelines regarding priority. When living family members are present, then they have a great responsibility toward their family member who may be a widow.

When a husband is taken from his wife through death, family members, adult children, grandchildren are to step into his place as best they can. They cannot obviously be him, provide, protect just as he did, but they can get more involved. They are to help to make up for what is lacking now in her life because of his absence.

When Paul says “let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God,” he is pointing the kids, adult kids toward their new widowed parent and urging them to move into a more prominent role of ministry to that parent. This is showing godliness. It is doing what God does for us, this is why it is showing godliness. God provides for us, He protects us, He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He looks out for us, right? So for us to show godliness we will do as He does in the lives of people and in this case in the life of a widow who is in need of our help.

God is faithful to give us opportunities to serve Him, and this is one way He may give you to serve Him. This would be an outward working of genuine faith. This is a repaying of sorts to a parent or grandparent, that is what returning to them means.

This is pleasing in God’s sight! Some of you even here this morning, you have modeled this so well for us. Some of you are now faithfully caring for widowed parents. I cannot tell you how encouraged I have been seeing some of you do this. When this is done it is a demonstration of true religion, of true Christianity, and I for one am grateful for your example. But for me to be grateful or even to notice is a very small thing, what is big is that it is pleasing to God!

Now there may be some widows who have no one, no one for their family, believers who can care for them. But even then, God does not let them fall through the cracks or be forgotten. This where the honor comes in, this is where the church steps in and helps as is needed.

Verse 5 goes on to describe the true widow who is really alone and how she becomes fully dependent on God. She is one who realizes clearly her desperate need. She has been left truly alone. She demonstrates her true faith as one who looks to God for her help. She has been accelerated to a place of faith. She has nothing, her trust must be in her Lord. I heard just last week that people in the U.S. are much more terrified of running out of money in their old age than death. This is a real fear. People are fearful of being destitute with nowhere to turn. Some of you have been close to that at some time in life. Where do we turn, where can we turn? To our God who provides. How will He provide? He has many ways to do that. Here for the widow it is through family or it is through the church, either way God is providing. Night and day she prays, she prays to her provider.

She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day (1 Timothy 5:5)

Verse 6 is interesting and briefly describes a totally different woman. It says, “but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” This is a woman who is not destitute but a widow with wealth, and who is selfishly indulgent with her wealth. She is the one who spends for herself. She may be without a husband, but instead of looking to the Lord she is living it up. What is interesting here is that it is the destitute woman who is seen as godly and the well-to-do woman who is not. But isn’t this the way things are? Not speaking of money really, but speaking of being in a place where we are critically aware of our need for God, when there we run to Him, we lean on Him, we cry out to Him, we long to be with Him. God is good, isn’t He, to show us of our need for Him in whatever way He chooses to do that. We may be without money or emotionally spent or abandoned by a loved one or disappointed with circumstances, facing great loss of some kind, and in many ways God is shouting to us, “Look to me, trust me, turn to me, cry out to me, I am here for you my child, come to me.” In poverty the widow turns to God, the Christian widow, but in riches…maybe not.

7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:7-8)

Verse 8 is a chilling statement. We have an obligation to provide needs for family. The clear statement here is if you don’t then you, we, have denied the faith. It is grievous to God if we don’t. And we are worse than an unbeliever. Strong words!

Here is the thing: God loves His children and He provides for them. And here we have an order of His gracious provision. We are to each care for our families and the church is to provide after that priority.

Don’t you love the practical nature of God’s Word to us? And don’t you love the way He clearly shows us how we can participate in caring for others, doing it His way? He cares for His own and godliness requires that we too care for those around us, in our families and in our church.

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:3-8)