Beyond the Casserole Dish—Caring for the Widow: Part 1


Are widows a part of your church’s ministry?

According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory Test the most stressful situation a person can face in life is the death of a spouse. [1] Imagine adding to the grief of losing a spouse a fleeting income, health limitations, and loneliness.  Together this makes for a very vulnerable situation. Outside of taking a meal to a widow during her time of grief, what role should the church be playing in caring for widows?

Beyond the Casserole Dish is a series of three blogs focused on the issues of caring for widows from a biblical and practical standpoint.

God’s Cares for the Widow

Widows are a primary recipient of God’s protection, justice and care throughout the Bible.  In fact, there are over 72 verses in the Bible that relate directly to God’s heart for defending and protecting the vulnerable widow. (Isaiah 1:17; Jer. 22:3-4; Psalm 68:5)  In Deuteronomy 27:19 God evens states, “cursed is the man who withholds justice to the widow.” The widow is often considered part of the “quartet of the vulnerable” mentioned throughout the Scriptures along with the poor, orphan and immigrant.

In biblical times, widows were in an especially challenging position. The lack of honorable employment and the shortage of secular institutions providing help resulted in many widows living in neglect and poverty. Some widows may have received help through family or friends, but many lived in insufficiency. Thus, it was necessary for the church to step in and care for this group. [2]

Though in today’s society more basic support and benefits for widows are provided through governmental programs, the extent of their needs is increasing.  As the structure of the family continues to disintegrate the number of widows without care will only grow.

With the care of widows being an escalating necessity how can the church step in and serve?  Our answer to this question will come in several separate parts.

God Provides

Let’s begin by taking a brief look at how God provided for the widows in Scripture.  Interestingly enough there are several instances in both testaments where God uses miracles to bless and provide for widows.

We see in 2 Kings 4:1-7 a prophet’s widow crying out to Elisha for help with debt.  With the pending sale of her sons into slavery God, through Elisha, performs a miracle of abundant oil thereby meeting her present and ongoing financial needs.

In Luke 7:11-17 Jesus, seeing the tears of the widowed mother and feeling compassion for her, touches the casket and brings her son back to life.

Other miracle stories include:

The dead son of the widow Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:17-24

The miracle of Tabitha in Acts 9:36-43

In all four situations we see God responding, through others, to a need with a miracle.  In some cases the response provided immediate physical provisions while in others, emotional and spiritual comfort.

The early church also responds to the needs of widows in Acts 6:1-4.  Seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” were identified to distribute the food and care for the widows of the Hellenistic Jews.  Here we see the church specifically identifying and caring for widows in a wholistic manner.

The care of widows is a theme that cannot be missed in the Bible, and their support takes many forms: spiritual, emotional and physical James evens conveys the message that “true religion” involves visiting “widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

Are widows a part of your church’s ministry? As churches think about various aspects of missional living, identifying and caring for widows should not be forgotten.

We will continue this discussion and speak more about the church’s role in identifying needs in part 2 of this series.

Resources:
[1] http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/c/157571/115211/life-predictors/
[2] http://www.gty.org/resources/study-guides/40-5209/caring-for-widows
By | 2017-09-05T20:25:46+00:00 January 10th, 2014|Categories: Learn and Apply, 2:10|

About the Author:

John Warden is Reconciled World’s global staff pastor and the facilitator for 2:10. He holds a Masters of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has more than fifteen years of ministry experience. He lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife and two daughters. You can contact him directly at johnw@reconciledworld.org.

One Comment

  1. Hey there! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this
    write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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