The Scriptorium

Concerning Widows (2)

There are true widows, and there are widows who are not true widows. 1 Timothy 5.9-16

The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy 5 (3)

Pray Psalm 146.9, 10.

The LORD watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.
The LORD shall reign forever—
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Read and meditate on 1 Timothy 5.9-16.


1. What qualities did Paul require in widows?

2. What instruction did he have for young widows? 

It’s clear from these verses that a larger purpose defines the care churches should give to widows, and to all needy people.

That larger purpose is the building-up of the local church in unity and maturity in the Lord (Eph. 4.11-16). Remember, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy to guide him in the conduct proper for a healthy, growing church (1 Tim. 3.14, 15). Caring for people’s needs is not an end in itself, but a means to the larger end of incarnating, as it were, the Body of Christ in a local community.

So, of course, some criteria must guide even our shepherding and generosity. Paul says churches should “Honor widows who are really widows” (v. 1). He might as well have said, “Care for the needy who are truly needy.” Truly needy people are those who are committed to the Body of Christ and His glory, but who, for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times in terms of their material needs. A true widow must not be young and of marriageable age. To take her under care would be to deprive the church of the possibility of more children (v. 14), and to encourage the young widow in a life of self-indulgence (vv. 11-13). Younger widows should marry, so that, under the care of a praying husband, they can flourish in the piety and witness Paul outlined in chapter 2.

True widows must be at least 60 years of age, says Paul, and have had only one husband. This second criterion refers back to verses 3-8. Paul is not discouraging second marriages; he’s saying that a widow with two families should be cared for by them, and not burden the church (cf. v. 16). Further, a true widow shows that she is a woman of truth by her devotion to the work of the Lord (v. 10). As the local church takes on the support of such a woman, it helps itself to grow in good works. That’s what Paul would describe as a sound investment.

Love has boundaries and rules (Matt. 22.34-40). There is nothing willy-nilly or merely sentimental about love. Love’s aim is more love, for God and neighbors, through local churches that are increasing in the love of Jesus according to the Word of God and the guidelines for love that Word provides.

1. Why should churches give material support to needy members? Why should they not?

2. How would the criteria Paul outlines in verse 10 have incentivized women of all ages?

3. For younger widows, Paul prescribed responsibility rather than relief. Explain.

In emphasizing hospitality and the care of the saints as important qualifications for the widow, Paul’s goal is not to focus on a certain quantity of virtuous activity but rather on a quality of mind. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466), Interpretation of the First Letter to Timothy

It is through our ministries that our churches grow in Jesus and His love (Eph. 4.12-16), so help me to fulfill my ministry today, Lord, as I…

Pray Psalm 146.8-10.

Intercede for those who need to know the Lord’s grace for healing, relief, righteousness, welcome, or salvation.

Sing Psalm 146.7-10.
Psalm 146.7-10 (Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Jesus sets the pris’ner free, heals blind eyes that they may see, 
lifts those burdened painfully – God forever reigns in Zion!

He the righteous loves the best; wand’rers in His grace are blessed;
needy ones in Him find rest – God forever reigns in Zion!

But the wicked who defame His eternal blessèd Name, 
them He brings to ruin and shame – God forever reigns in Zion!

T. M. Moore

Whatever our calling in life, we are sent to bring the joy of Christ to the people around us. Our book, Joy to Your World!, can show you how to fill your Personal Mission Field with more of the Presence, promise, and power of Christ and His Kingdom. Order your copy, as a supplement to our study of 1 Timothy, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.