Care for Widows

Open Your Bible

1 Timothy 5:1-16, Ruth 2:5-16, James 1:27

I help teach a membership class at my church about once a quarter to those interested in learning more about what we believe and what it means to be a member of a local church. When you join a local church, you commit to a group of people and ask them to become your people, and you promise to become theirs. We ask our new members to stand up in front of the congregation and make that pledge to strangers and friends, people who look like them and people who don’t, people who make way more money and those who make a lot less, people that have lived many more decades and the littlest children that call our church home. 

The beauty of the church is in that diversity. It’s in the equality we all share because of the work of Jesus to reconcile us all to each other and to God. And one of the most beautiful charges of the church is to love each other as a picture of how God loves us. 

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives the young Timothy a list of helpful ways to serve the various people in his church. These are the kind but strong words of a much more experienced leader, encouraging his protégé to lead his people in love and service. Paul discusses three groups of people: church groups by age, genuine widows, and younger widows. 

First, Paul tells Timothy to honor the older men as fathers, the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters. What a beautiful posture of humility and kindness Paul describes here! 

Second, Paul explains how the church should care for “genuine” widows, which he describes as those with no family to take care of them and those who have shown their love for God through prayer and service. We’ll unpack the distinction with “younger widows” in just a minute, but this theme of caring for widows stretches like a red thread all the way through the Bible. You can read about God’s prioritization of and care for widows in Exodus 22, Deuteronomy 24, Psalm 68, Isaiah 1, Acts 6, James 1, and more. Part of the reason for this was cultural; women whose husbands had died (particularly those without children) had no stature in society, no means for economic security, and no rights. And so God who loves the least of these always wants His people to love them too, with words and with actions. 

Third, Paul reminds Timothy about “young widows” or those otherwise disqualified from the church aid, including those with families or those who wanted to remarry. This isn’t an exclusionary list of those who were or were not worthy of love or care; rather, it was a helpful instruction for a young pastor trying to establish healthy boundaries for his congregation and resources. God’s commitment to his people, all of whom are made in His image, is deeply woven throughout this text and all of Scripture.

This text reminds us what it means to be part of the family of God and part of its expression in the local church. We are bound together by a love for the Lord, and are compelled by that love to love each other in word and deed. Because of His great love for us, we are able to love fully and give freely to all in need. 

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51 thoughts on "Care for Widows"

  1. Alicia Colburn says:


  2. Cindy Hanna says:

    Many years ago I was a young widow with 2 small children. I read these passages in Timothy and immediately was hung up (and angry) on the words “true widow”. Luckily God brought a Christian co-worker to my aid. Through her gentle explanation I heard God’s concern for my physical care and spiritual future. The Church did a wonderful job of helping me when needed and I was granted the grace to return those blessings to the church through acts of service of my own. In due time I remarried. The joyful celebration that my church family poured out on my little family surely brought glory to God and testified to His goodness!

  3. Abigail B. says:

    Amen Jennifer Loves Jesus and Patricia Stewart! Our modern cultural sensibilities can, will, and do distort the God view that the Bible shows us we should have. However, I find I have to keep coming back to two powerful truths to crowd out any noise: 1) God is good all the time and in all things. His ways are not my ways, but His ways are always good, and 2) I believe the Bible to be true and inerrant in its entirety. That requires me to study faithfully, and always in light of truth #1, so as to understand that there are hard parts that I may not like, but there is a reason for them.

  4. Rita Jordan says:

    I never thought of it as loving our “enemy”! Thank you for that perspective!

  5. Patricia Stewart says:

    Listening to the weekly SRT podcast help me unpack the scripture study. I try to stay open to what God wants me to hear. When I find something offends me I know it exactly where God wants me to grow. It’s a sign to me that something in the world distorted my God view. God is always renewing my mind, heart and emotions around the difficulties of my life. My experiences are a gift from God and an opportunity to grow closer to him.

  6. Patricia Stewart says:

    Listening to the weekly SRT podcast help me unpack the scripture study. I try to stay open to what God wants me to hear. When I find something offends me I know it exactly where God wants me to grow. It’s a sign to me that something in the world distorted my God view. God is always renewing my mind, heart and emotions around the difficulties of my life. My experience

  7. Sydney DiGiuseppe says:

    The “Through the Word” app is a great resource!

  8. Kelli Carlson says:

    I love the Bible Project! I will check it out.

  9. Jennifer Loves Jesus says:

    Praying over the confusion and ways we push the Spirit back when truth comes against our own agreements with false securities. I pray for mercy to fall in these places we’ve come to know as defense in a cruel world. Our Creator knows and He has the answers we want. I bow and submit to His wisdom. May His love permeate our minds and connect with bonds of love to our hearts. Fearless of pain because His healing reigns over anything this world throws our way.

  10. Alexandra Mariani says:

    This is my first journey reading anything by St-Paul and wow I feel like I have a lot to learn!! Trying to keep an open mind even though I feel like im in muddy deep water. I will watch the bible project videos, anything else someone recommends? Blessed evening she’s!

  11. Allison Bentley says:

    God not only calls us to be kind to widows but in Ruth 2:5-16 there is a bigger picture as well. The Moabites were historically regarded as the perpetual enemy of the Israelites, “God’s Chosen People.” Physically, the region was a green, verdant valley in the middle of a serious desert; an emerald in the sand, so to speak. So God is calling us to love our “enemy”, the Moabite woman, the woman who may not look or dress like me, the woman who may not have kids or have 10 kids. Just because we are different we are all bound together through Christ!! Praying today that in our own “ministries” we can love like Jesus!!!

  12. Grayson Chatfield says:

    I highly suggest watching The Bible Project’s video on 1 Timothy, especially in regards to today’s reading. It’s addressed at 6 minutes 18 seconds. Be blessed sisters!

  13. Jo says:

    Amen MERCY, your comments made me think of SEARCHING on Sunday who said regarding the verse in 2 Timothy about all scripture being God-breathed: “All Scripture, not just the parts we like or agree with”. When I find scripture difficult I am honest with the Lord and ask Him to reveal the truth in His Word. His Word is “living and active” Hebrews 4:12. It’s not meant to be easy. He calls us to put ourselves out for others, to put others before our wants or ambition.

  14. Elise Beels says:

    I had the same thought! What I failed to know women then had no rights and no way of making an income.

  15. Dorothy says:

    The one value my parents tried to install in my siblings and myself is to be there for and to help family. And over the years, even after my parents passing I have found that we have been there for each other. Not only that this is a value we have tried to install in all of children. My son tries to not only look after me but his aunts on both sides of his family. My nephews and niece have been there and stepped up to help when needed. I praise God and Christ every day for parents who instilled this in us because in my over 40 years of nursing I’ve seen too many times the opposite.
    Sisters be blessed and help someone today.

  16. Mercy says:

    The Bible is always very specific with its directions in the reading today and I love it. The part that captured my interest was “do not rebuke but persuade”. Years ago when I read this chapter of 1 Timothy 5, i just remembered not to rebuke an older man, however now that I looked closer, it said older men, younger men, older women and younger women. Isn’t that almost everyone? Yes. Do not rebuke but appeal /urge /reverently encourage / respectfully persuade them with PURITY in order to maintain an appropriate relationship as if they are your family. Amen. The Word of God is truly not Paul’s opinions here. We need to discern truths from opinions, and facts from truths. And God’s word is 100% truth though written by men but God breathed. There are cultural context that can add to confusion causing debates, however I really appreciate the author’s clarification that the letter is for young pastors (Timothy at the time who was still in training to run the church), to wisely and efficiently distribute their limited resources and time. And personally I think it is wisdom for all pastors too, as churches’ resources are generally limited. To GOD be the glory, who always care for the least among us. You can really see a person’s character by how they treat the least important person (a homeless old man, a waiter, a panhandler at street corner, a janitor, the list goes on). But God’s heart is to watch out for the benefits of the least important, as how we treat the least of people, we have done it onto Him (Matthew 25:40). The heart of God is the most beautiful wonder in this whole universe. The purity and sweetness of His heart can make me weep. He is truly not from this world. Glory to HIM. Be blessed dear beautiful sisters!

  17. Beverly Watley says:

    Me too, Terri and Lynn more info is needed. I think I’m going to YouTube first.

  18. Jan says:

    There are so many excellent comments today. When we look at God’s teaching, His nudging, His ‘whispering’ it looks to me like protection, guidance and love. The analogy of the horse whisperer is perfect. The trainer knows where the danger is and that the horse’s wild reaction to fear can lead to injury. Coming just close enough to calm but not restrain allows the horse to calm himself and, in trust, be led, guided.
    We tend to look at self-will and lawlessness as wild and free, but it is a dangerous place to be and can be a fearful place with no boundaries, no direction, no place of safety. The boundaries God sets are not to cage us up but rather allow us to live, trusting Him and in His protection, no matter what may come to us. That is real freedom.
    OUR SUBMISSION IS A GIFT WE GIVE. It is not forced on us. Indeed it can’t be. It is a mindset. We can be beaten down or restrained, but still be rebellious. As women, as Christians, our submission is a condition of our heart to remove self from the focus of worship and put God there.

  19. Donna says:

    I don’t think this means that churches should not help all widows in different ways, but it seems to me that they probably had limited funds and had to give financially to those who were widows that had no families to look after them, as well as those that were a part of the church community that lived as a Christian in order that those funds were not taken advantage of by people that had other means of being cared for. Sometimes I see in churches these days people coming to get money but not caring at all about God or living for Him. Again, we should be willing to give to everyone, but I think Paul was giving specific instructions to Timothy regarding the money allotted to widows. What spoke to me deeply was that ALL of us should look after elderly people that so often get neglected or forgotten. It seems very important to God that we look after our family members personally and not just push it off on the church leaders or others to do (because each one of us actually is the church) – this can include visiting them and calling them and caring for them and showing them that they are loved and valuable. Our society seems to be often so caught up in self-indulgence that we don’t want to be inconvenienced by caring for an older person or aging relative. May the Lord fill me and all of us with His love towards them!

  20. Molly Rohrer says:

    @Stephanie G, I keep The Bible Project open in a tab next to my SRT tab! It’s been so hopeful with several passages I have done with SRT.

  21. Stephanie G says:

    Also, HRT devo today is worth a read! “The broader application of this passage is that the church is called to care for its own, to get to know one another well enough to be able to recognize real needs, and generous enough that we are able to respond to those needs.”

  22. Molly Rohrer says:

    A timely read right after Mother’s Day. My husband and firstborn are out of town for a beloved Grandmother’s memorial service half way across the country. We couldn’t take all 6, so we made the decision to send him and our son. Both my FIL and MIL lost their precious mothers within 6 months of each other, and this road trip would take them through my FIL hometown on the way to my MIL hometown and the long awaited memorial service with family they haven’t seen in many years. My husband and son are with them on the road trip and as I woke up in self pity at having to “single mom” my own Mother’s Day, the Holy Spirit reminded me what a gift if was for them to be together as they arrived in my FIL hometown and for my MIL to have not only a grown son, but a beloved grandson to bring joy on what was probably a hard day. And it gave me and my 2 girls (ages 8 and 6) the opportunity to hand deliver flowers and hand written cards to 9 of our new neighbors that are women of all ages and stages of motherhood. The joy of watching my girls take ownership of showering others in honor and blessing and receive such kind and beautiful affirmation from each neighbor was a gift for this Mama’s heart I can’t even describe. What a joy to be able to walk them through the gift of giving with no expectation of return. I went to be in tears of joy at what a Mother’s Day that I was anticipating being a wash this year due to the circumstances. God, you love so deeply and so uniquely each heart that yearns for you. We don’t deserve any of it, and sometimes it’s too hard to take it all in. I am praying for those of you who are finding it hard to honor mother’s of all kinds in your life, and to care for them in their need. May we all trust in the LORD with this tough book, and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, may we acknowledge Him and see Him make our paths straighten!

  23. Stephanie G says:

    Stephanie, my heart goes out to you. So thankful that you have such a strong church family that God is using to help meet your needs.

    As for the qualifiers in this passage, I found the Bible Project video on YouTube for 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy helpful in reminding me that this is a letter directed at a specific church and it’s struggles. There were wealthy young widows in Ephesus abusing the church’s outreach and using resources that were needed more by those widows completely without support.
    I agree Tricia and others that the point seems to be to take care of those in need.

  24. Rachel says:

    It’s so good when things we read in Scripture hit us funny, as that (hopefully) causes us to dig deeper into Scripture for a better understanding. I believe that the Bible is the true and inerrant word of God and that while there are obviously cultural nuances that we take into account, the message is unchanged. Therefore, if there is something I read that I don’t like, I have to assume that the problem is with me (either in a lack of knowledge/understanding or perhaps a lack of humility) and not with God’s word. This is challenging and comforting all at the same time.

  25. Rhonda J. says:

    Amen Jennifer Loves Jesus!

    We are strong women, but we are the strongest in our TRUST in our Creator!

    Prayers for you @Taylor. Don’t be too hard on yourself, repent and get back in line with God. Sometimes we tend to repeat that same sin that the devil knows is our weakness. I did many times as I was also in Church and small group- But I would slip. Hugs.

  26. Terri Baldwin says:

    This is a confusing read for me I need to dig deeper to fully understand.

  27. Traci Gendron says:

    Reading the comments I was thinking that maybe it is our worldly view that makes us think these passages are sexist. And this is coming from someone that has a very strong personality. Doesn’t God know best? Don’t we want to trust Him? Know that He desires the best for us. This is from Jennifer Loves Jesus, But life becomes brilliant when we allow ourselves to be broken. Wild and unbroken may look strong and free, but for what? There is a tying of purpose, bridling trust, and allowing ourselves to carry the Holy Spirit when we come to know that Jesus fulfills the first purpose of our lives. We will do amazing things with God. Let us trust that God knows best. That submission does not mean being a doormat. It means trusting God with our lives.

  28. Angelina Ruby says:

    1 Timothy 5:8 spoke to me. Providing for one’s own family is a spiritual issue of utmost importance. Failure to live out the gospel in this way is equal to denial of the faith.

  29. Angelina Ruby says:

    1 Timothy 5:8 spoke to me.

  30. Claire B says:

    Liz, in my college and early adult years (the 70’s) I struggled with much of Paul’s work. I kept saying this is not Jesus. I was and still am an independent person. After children I would point to Paul and say hasn’t he figured out who gets everyone to church and religious activities? Who handles the family? There are 2 things at play here and Satan is in both. 1. The Bible is the living Word of God, this you must believe and Satan will mess with you on this fact. 2. Cultural differences made the wording difficult to blend in today’s world. Women were not equal in any way financially or educationally, they were male dependent. We don’t have to “like it” but it is what it is. As I grew in my faith I learned I had to come to peace with Paul. I have/had to pray for discernment, for God to lead me through these passages without feeling anger. I keep coming back to IT IS THE WORD OF GOD I must find relationship with it. I must pray earnestly for understanding and application.

  31. Jennifer Loves Jesus says:

    And I will take you as my wife forever; I will take you as a wife for myself in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. ⌊I will take you as my wife⌋ in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh (Ho 2:19–20 LEB).

    The covering of our Lord, especially as women, is a profound and beautiful gift. In our world today, women are pushed to be something we were not created for. The submission to God’s hand brings more freedom, not less. As I watched my mom walk as a widow when my Daddy passed away, she was so broken. But her brokenness was not the kind of brokenness that brought life. She had not learned to walk with God in ways that would have sustained her. I love my mom, and it grieved my heart to see her trying to cope on her own. Widows carry such a heavy sadness. I pray that God provides for the widows, and if its through my hands and love that I would hear the call and respond. I think of a horse whisperer I saw used as a message in church. The horse was unbroken. The whisperer was like God. Gently and persistently staying close enough to know he was there, but he didn’t force the horse to obey. There was no violence or heavy discipline, only strong and steadfast love was displayed. It took time, but watching the bonds of trust come as the horse focused on the whisperer and not on the people in the church arena, was amazing to see unfold. This strong 1200 lb horse seemed much bigger than the whisperer, but the whisperer had the wisdom and knowledge of wanting the best for that horse. But the horse was afraid and anxious, doing his best to find a way out. As the ropes and hands of the whisperer remained constant and gentle, the horse submitted slowly. I watched the traumas and fear melt away as the horse finally gave in. It took courage, not weakness. Strength came through acknowledging that horse and man were made for eachother. Just as God made us for Him. Living without Him, we can. But life becomes brilliant when we allow ourselves to be broken. Wild and unbroken may look strong and free, but for what? There is a tying of purpose, bridling trust, and allowing ourselves to carry the Holy Spirit when we come to know Jesus fulfils the first purpose of our lives. Just as the horse and rider will do amazing things together, we will do amazing things with God. Life is hard, God is stronger than me. No matter what hard things come, I know He will come and make all things new. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Maranatha.

  32. Liz Haswell says:

    I agree! A true silver lining.

  33. Liz Haswell says:

    Same here.

  34. Liz Haswell says:

    Honestly I find these passages so hard to read. They seem so sexist and judgmental. I’d love to understand how one can reconcile saying that the church has no obligation to others based on a list of rules with what Jesus taught, which was that everyone is God’s beloved child.

  35. Robin Fjelstad says:

    I see many ministering to the orphan but few who seek to meet the needs of the true widows

  36. May D says:

    Having a hard time understanding all the qualifiers when that’s not what Jesus taught.

  37. Stephanie Wright says:

    I fall into the “young widow” category- my husband passed in January 2021 from bone marrow failure. I have two kids- 13 and 9. I am the only widow under the age of 60 in my church. I cannot imagine leaving though- they’ve been so supportive and encouraging to me as I find my feet as a working, single mother. I was a SAHM prior as we moved around often for my husband’s jobs. The closest family are 3.5 hours away and my in-laws keeps pressuring me to move. I know its different for each widow, but I think there is so much that’s different following the death of a spouse that the familiarity of your church is crucial and has definitely been my “family” through this journey. The men are stepping up to help “father” my 13yo son and I’m beyond grateful.

  38. Taylor says:

    As an occupational therapist, I spend a lot of my day caring for older people most of whom are widows and widowers. I feel like my work is part of my personal ministry that God has called me to, but also feeling impressed to partner with my local church to serve those in need outside of my job.

    Also asking for prayer as I feel the attacks of the devil on my heart and mind. I fell into sin in 2 different ways this weekend and am carrying a lot of guilt and shame about it. I’ve prayed and repented as asked God for strength not to make the same mistakes again. Thank you all for your prayers <3

  39. Karen Mathre says:

    I feel a little bit that God said widows without qualifiers and Paul seems to be adding in a lot of human judgement. Personal I want to help those in need without judging because we may not know what is their situation. Growing up my parents put on the impression that all was well when we were truly in need. I have know single mothers who have needed help but under Paul’s words they would be excluded.

  40. Mary Hayden says:

    Love freely ❤️

  41. Angie Shaffer says:

    Sometimes there can be so much need around us we can be overwhelmed with it. This reminds us to have our eyes turned to the ministries God wants us to be a part of. Nothing is too big for Him! He gives us all the instruction we need to be difference makers.

  42. Sydney Smith says:

    Needed this reminder that our jobs here have nothing to do with self indulgence, quite the opposite! Praying that I find ways to serve others while home raising my family. Thank you Lord for your direction and love.

  43. Stormi Messmer says:


  44. Michelle Patire says:

    Psalm 68:6
    “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing…”

    This devotional just spoke deeply to me that the church should treat those without family as family– and that all members of Christ’s body are family!

    Thank you, Lord, for creating a new family in place of brokenness in our world. So many people come from broken homes and upbringings. Thank you for the structure and boundaries you command in Scripture. Help me to be faithful in these areas as well as other areas. Thank you, Lord.

  45. Michelle Sundman says:

    Love freely. This hits a chord with me because love wasn’t gone freely when I was young. However as I approach 50… God had changed me. And to me, love is easy to give to others. Love freely! It may or not come back, but what a joy to be able to love freely!

  46. Churchmouse says:

    Covid nudged churches to consider and implement online services. What a blessing for those who are unable to physically attend their local church. One church, with many locations, refers to their shut-in folks as their internet campus. They view it as as vital as their other campuses. What a wonderful attitude towards those often overlooked. With the decrease in covid numbers, many have returned to in-person attendance. This church remains committed to serving those still isolated, for whatever reason, at home. What an example of caring for all of their congregation!

  47. Melissa Mcronney says:

    Thank You Jesus for Your Love ❤️

  48. Kelly (NEO) says:

    Cancer has taken many of the men in my church family, leaving both “young” and “old” widows. Most have left the church for other congregations because they don’t feel comfortable any longer going solo when they had always been a couple. They cannot relate to the church family the same way. With a new church family, they don’t have that struggle. Miss them, but want them to flurish and serve God the best they can.

  49. Angie says:

    Blessed Beth, thank you for sharing-I love the “team” effort in your marriage as you reach out to those in need. Beautiful.

  50. Blessed Beth says:

    This is such a reminder of my husband, he has always made it a priority to do for widows and widowers and older people who never married. He is so good with repairing cars, small machines, home repairs etc. This God has put on his heart. I love that God is so amazing at giving us each gifts/ talents that we love to use and return to give Him glory. For me mine is simply cooking and visiting for the same people. We make a good team.

  51. searching says:

    Such love and kindness to be shown to those who are often overlooked, or “out of sight, out of mind.” I can think of 2 widows that are in that category – time to reach out.

    Praying for requests.