“The Godly Widow”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
I’m fond of saying that too often, the Lord’s church in America does a great job of attending to the spiritual needs of married people with kids at home and a not-so-great job of attending to the spiritual needs of everybody else. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. It’s not particularly helpful for Christians who aren’t part of the favored group, and it ignores what the Bible has to say to those people too.
Among those neglected in this way are widows. The Scriptures have a lot to say about widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. True, much of this text is taken up with a discussion of whether a widow is worthy of church support, but along the way, Paul identifies several characteristics that a widow must possess to be righteous.
This teaching, though often overlooked, is extremely relevant. We have many widows in this congregation as well as many other single people who are kind of in a widow-ish position. Even the rest of us will find many things to benefit us here. With this in mind, then, let’s consider what the Scriptures say about the godly widow.
First, the godly widow HOPES. According to 1 Timothy 5:5, she puts her hope in God. Yes, obviously, all of us should put our hope in God, but I think this is particularly important for widows because it defines their purpose.
Let me explain. Many women, especially in the church, spend their adult lives taking care of others. They get married, and they take care of their husbands. They have kids, and they care for them and generally keep the household running smoothly. Many times, a widow has had to deal with her husband’s prolonged illness, tending to his every need. Now, though, he’s gone, and there’s nobody left to take care of. What do you do now?
Paul gives us the answer. Rather than focusing on caring for your family, you shift your focus to inheriting eternal life. Just like you used to get up every day and make sure that the food was cooked and the dishes were washed and the laundry was run, now you get up every day with the goal of making sure you receive your reward.
Second, the godly widow PRAYS. 1 Timothy 5:5 describes her as continuing night and day in prayer. Here too, I think Paul is calling widows to a perspective shift.
Most adult women live busy lives. In addition to all the household stuff we’ve already discussed, many of them work outside the home too, and they have all sorts of other responsibilities to boot.
For most widows, 90 percent of that stuff isn’t happening anymore. Indeed, you may be the aging parent that others are tending! That leaves a whole, whole lot of time, time that often hangs heavy on widows’ hands. What do you do with it?
Easy. You pray. You pray a whole, whole lot. You pray for every good thing you can think of, God’s blessing on your family, God’s blessing on the church, God’s blessing on each member of the church, and for you yourself to grow up into the image of Christ. All that time isn’t a burden. It’s a gift. Use it well.
The beauty of prayer is that it’s something that every Christian woman of sound mind can do. I know that some of the sisters here don’t have much physical capability left. They’re simply not strong enough to carry out the acts of service I’ll be talking about later. However, everybody who is capable of comprehending this sermon is capable of prayer, and even if we can’t work anymore, God sure can!
Third, the godly widow ENTERTAINS. As per 1 Timothy 5:10, she shows hospitality. This is another consequence of widows having more time and fewer people on their hands than they used to. Lauren and I entertain a lot, but let me tell you, it’s not easy, especially for her! We have to fit in prep around the rest of our schedules, and we have two lovely children who are determined to make as much mess as possible while cleaning up as little as possible.
For many widows, hospitality is much easier. You by yourselves don’t make as much mess as your husband and kids used to, and you have more time available to prepare. I think the widows here easily could be at the forefront of welcoming strangers to our congregation. I know that some of you are more introverted than others, and that the thought of inviting people you don’t know into your home makes you quail.
However, that’s why there are many members in the Lord’s body. If you’re not up to the task of making dinner conversation by yourself, there are extroverted Christians in this congregation who will happily do it for you. Invite them over along with the visitor, and sit back and watch them do their thing!
Basically, the point is this: if widows in the first century were known for hospitality, widows in the twenty-first century can be too.
Similarly, the godly widow SERVES. 1 Timothy 5:10 describes her as having washed the saints’ feet. As we know from our study of John 13, this was not a mere ritual. Rather, foot-washing was a humble, gracious response to the problem of filthy first-century streets making others’ feet filthy. Worldly people in that time considered foot-washing demeaning; godly widows considered it an opportunity to serve.
So too, godly widows today can be women who do what needs doing. In a congregation this size, there’s always something to do! There are meals to be prepared. There are welcome cards to visitors to be written. For that matter, there are cards to everybody to be written. There are children’s Bible classes to be taught. There are outsiders to invite to services. The list goes on and on. If you’re out of ideas for something else to do, ask the elders, and they will be delighted to make suggestions!
In short, opportunities to serve abound. I don’t think every widow should be doing all of these things, but I do believe that every widow should be doing as much as she can physically handle. There’s nothing sadder than a sister in Christ who complains that her life is meaningless but is choosing not to do any of the things that would make her life meaningful.
Finally, the godly widow HELPS. As per 1 Timothy 5:10, she helps the afflicted. There are a lot of different ways I could take this, but in particular, I want to consider the Titus 2:4 responsibility of older women to teach the younger women.
I’ve heard a lot about this one from both sides. Lots of younger women in the church insist that they can’t find older women to teach them, while older women in the church insist that they can’t find younger women who want to be taught. I wonder if the problem here is a misconception about what teaching should look like. If the older women try to “teach” by going up to the sister wrestling her screaming child in the lobby and telling her how she kept every one of her 27 children under perfect control back in 1975, that’s not going to go over very well!
Instead, we should note that the first thing older women are supposed to be teaching is love, and I don’t know of any way to teach love other than showing love. Widows, if you want a younger woman to listen to you, be her friend first. Listen to her. Spend time with her. Help her make it through life. Soon enough, you won’t have to bring up the things you want to talk about because she’ll be asking you about them first.