Widows Indeed (I Timothy 5)

Bill Eskut
Baltimore, Maryland

This passage of scripture restricts the benevolent work of the church among widows to those who are widows indeed. By way of proving this statement, let's investigate the meaning of the terms used. The following definitions are taken from Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine.

Indeed: Comes from the Greek word "ontos", the present participle of "eimi", to be, denotes really, or actually; it is translated "indeed" in I Tim 5:8, 5, and 16. Some manuscripts have "aionion", which means "eternal". Thus the meaning might be summed up as really, actually, of a truth, verily, and eternally.

Widow: "I Tim 5:9 refers to elderly widows (not an ecclesiastical order), recognized, for relief or maintenance by the church (cp. vv. 3, 16), as those who had fulfilled the conditions mentioned; where relief could be ministered by those who had relatives that were widows (a likely circumstance in large families), the church was not to be responsible; there is an intimation of the tendency to shelve individual responsibility at the expense of church funds." (Emphasis mine, ble)

Therefore we see that a widow indeed was one who was a:

(1) widow verily,

(2) widow really,

(3) widow actually,

(4) widow of a truth, and a

(5) widow eternally.

The passages set forth the following qualifications for a widow indeed who can become the charge of the church on a continued basis (see verses 5-10). She must

(1) be desolate or destitute,

(2) have no one upon which to depend,

(3) be faithful in worship,

(4) have been godly in life and in character,

(5) be 60 years of age or older,

(6) have been benevolent and faithful in good works herself,

(7) and have been the wife of one man. A widow must satisfy every one of the requirements listed above before she can lawfully be a burden to the church for her remaining years.

Do not mistakenly take verse 5 as a definition of a widow indeed. Listen to Paul, "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." Paul is simply saying that the woman who is a widow indeed and who is desolate will be the widow who will continue in prayers night and day because she has no-one to look to except God and his mercy. And the Church is simply God's agency in seeing that her physical needs are provided for. Being a widow indeed isn't enough; she must also be - as Paul says - desolate (without any relatives to care for her). Of course if she is a millionaire or well to do, she could not very well be classed as desolate.

Note the Apostle's language in verse 16, "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (Emphasis mine, ble).

How do I know that it is not God's will for women under 60 to be cared for by the church? My authority is verses 9 and 11. "Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old . . .", and, "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry." How do I know what God desires the younger widows to do? Paul answers, "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." (v.14)

While I am on the subject of support for widows, lees look at the meaning of the word honor as used in verse 3. "Honor widows that are widows indeed."

Honor: Comes from the verb "timao" which is a Greek word meaning: "the respect and material assistance to be given to widows"

Thus, we see that the word honor not only means respect but also means to render the material assistance required to sustain her life. Many individuals are content to give mere lip service to their parents but have not learned what the Apostle John taught when he said, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." I John 3:18. We further read, "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.... Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another" (I John 4:8 and 11). Thus the teaching oF John is that we should love in deed as well as in word. We must use our resources to help relieve those who are needy. This involves feeding those who are hungry, clothing those who are naked, and giving shelter unto those who are homeless. "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food and one of you my unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:15-17). If we should have this kind of love for a brother or sister, what does God think of us when we refuse to take care of our mother or aunt when they are too old to care for themselves? Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees because they taught that the children did not have to care for their parents (see Matt 15:3-6). And furthermore, the Apostle Paul taught that Christians were to do good unto all men, especially those of the household of faith. (Gal 6: 10)

Brethren, the Lord is tender and merciful, he is longsuffering and patient, he is forgiving and understanding, he loves us and seeks our best interest, and for the love he requires of us his rewards are beyond measure. Let's have the faith and the love for God and his word to treat it tenderly and prayerfully -- rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15; Psalms 119:105, 127-128).

February 24, 1972