30 years ago,
I helped to start a ministry to older, low-income widows living in urban and inner city neighborhoods around Chattanooga, TN. with home repair needs as well as facilitating an ongoing widow’s prayer ministry. This ministry was founded on James 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, (in order) to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (DBY)
In those early years, though,
there seemed to be some confusion coming from many of the church leaders I approached about supporting this fledgling ministry as to who, according to scripture, we should consider to be a “widow indeed” and as such legitimately qualify her for our services.
The criteria for those qualifications that I was most frequently advised to rely upon were those found in I Timothy 5:9-10,
“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.” (NIV)
And although I did not believe, at the time, that the intent of the author of these passages was to provide the standard for what both defined a widow or qualified a widow to be helped, I had no scriptural basis for that belief. Thankfully, one day while listening to our local Moody radio station I heard John MacArthur teaching a Bible study on these same passages in I Timothy 5 about what scripturally defines a widow as well as what qualifies her for help. MacArthur, in this series, “Caring for Widows,” points out that
“the Greek word for widow in the New Testament is chēra, which means “bereft.” That it is, quite literally, the condition of a woman being ‘bereft’ of a husband, at any age, that scripturally qualifies her for being helped, and not the circumstance that caused this condition, i.e. divorce, abandonment, death, imprisonment, etc.”
Additionally, according to Strong’s Concordance, this same Greek word for widow also means
“metaphorically—a city stripped of its inhabitants and riches is represented under the figure of a widow, a presumed derivative whose root base presents the idea of deficiency; a widow (as lacking a husband), literally or figuratively:—widow.”
Similarly, in the Old Testament, also according to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word for widow, ‘almanah, conveys similar meaning,
“Almanah is translated most frequently, 53 times, as just simply the word widow, but also as desolate place and desolate house (palace) 1 time each.”
When you combine both the Hebrew and Greek meaning for the word widow, bereft of a husband and a desolate place or house, the meaning of Jesus’ own words to a group of Pharisees in Luke 13, who were threatening him, then becomes far more critical to our understanding, verse 35,
“Behold your house is left unto you desolate”(KJV).
According to Strongs Concordance the word desolate used here means
“A desolate place as well as being bereft: As in a flock deserted by the shepherd and a woman neglected by her husband, from whom the husband withholds himself.” Essentially, Israel had become like the widow: Desolate. God had left the building, so to speak, and they didn’t even realize it.
Interestingly, I also discovered at this time, through this same Bible study by MacArthur, that this list in I Timothy 5:9-10 is actually stating the qualifications for older widows to serve in official capacities in the church. Again, according to Strongs Concordance, one of the meanings of the Greek word for “list” in this passage is
“Of those widows who held a prominent place in the church and exercised a certain superintendence over the rest of the women, and had charge of the widows and orphans supported at the public expense.”
Essentially, the mandate for the older women to teach the younger women.
Something that lip service is often given to, but provisions are rarely, if ever, made within churches to actually insure that this system is put into place.
What is most significant, however, is our need to first understand who should be recognized, based on scripture, to be a widow and subsequently qualifies her for help. Once understood, we must then acknowledge that
all those among us we have categorized today as “single mothers,” are legitimate widows as well, and their children are to be considered by us as “the fatherless.”
Based on James 1:27, then,
our worship is considered by God to either be“pure and undefiled” or “impure and defiled.”
With the former leading to “deliverance, redemption and restoration” the outcome of which has been recorded in Acts 6:7 after a group of minority Greek widows are fed,
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”(NIV),
and the latter leading to desolation, or being like the widow,
essentially causing the “abomination of desolation to stand where it should not, or our house being left unto us desolate,”
an outcome that Jesus warns his disciples about in Matthew 13:14, and also one that is actually recorded as occurring in Zechariah 7:14, the last verse in this chapter. In this concluding verse in Zechariah 7 we are told that
“the land itself became a desolate place and the blame for this was placed completely on the shoulders of the people themselves for refusing to do what God had commanded them to fulfill as worship unto him”
a list of which has been reveal to us just prior to this in verses 9 & 10 of this same chapter,
“…Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other. But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.”
I know in my heart that God is saying this very same thing to us today, just as he has said this to all those who are called by his name throughout history. And I fear that our response to this, today, is no different than Israel’s for refusing to pay attention and likewise for turning our backs on those such as the widows and the fatherless.
Which means that we have also turned our backs on God and that only we, as the Church, whose “citizenship is in heaven” and where we are “already seated in a heavenly realm with Jesus,” have ourselves to blame for the effects of desolation that has, even now, overtaken us.
A 2 Kings 4:1~7 bible narration of Elisha the Prophet bail~out of a widow++ keen enthusiast who has been blessed by his Creator The Almighty God++ My ORCID iD is 0000-0002-8535-067X++ Local Guide for Google Maps++ The link to my public record is http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8535-067X++ https://goo.gl/1n44Hh++ View all posts by widowskenya