In Farmville there is a particular group of wonderful women who seem to have a great time together eating out, having parties, going to plays and more. Since these ladies are widows it could be easy to forget that they likely face times of loneliness. We know of other widows who don’t get out as much and might remember more easily to empathize with them. In the Bible there are approximately eighty direct references to widows and they are the subject of miracles in both testaments.
Without things like retirement funds or Social Security, the woman who lost her husband in Bible times found her best hope for material security in a son. She could not simply have gone out to get a job. If a widow had no family of her own utter destitution was a possibility.
Paul instructed “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:3-4) The family was to be the primary source of help.
In Acts we read of a problem the early church encountered. The Hellenistic Jews were complaining against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Due to this, seven men were chosen, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, who were charged with the task to “wait on tables.” These men were called “deacons” which literally means “servants” in Greek. In many churches the deacons and deaconesses are given the duty of serving the poor and the widows.
Today many families help their widowed mothers and grandmothers. Outside of the government, the church should be the best social institution to help these women. Some congregations schedule regular visitation and weekly or monthly delivery of meals. Youth groups might spend a day raking leaves or mowing grass for widows or deacons might take care of oil changes. A group of older widows recently relayed the need for having someone come to change lightbulbs and filters in their homes. One woman commented that she would enjoy being included in invitations to social gatherings but definitely not for Valentine’s Day.
Scripture is full of warnings about how we are not to take financial advantage of widows. Sadly, there are some who would charge too much money from an unsuspecting woman. These could even be people of faith. “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:45-47)
Jesus exemplified the kind of care and empathy with which we should treat those who have lost a loved one. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)