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Who is the Widow?
Soothing music filled the gently lit room. The comforting scent of aroma therapy candles enveloped me as the gifted hands of the massage therapist worked the knots out of my tense muscles. The heaviness of my circumstances began to recede: a welcome relief if even for just this one hour.
For this one hour, the anxiety and heartache I was suffering lessened its grip and I was able to breathe. For one hour a week, my friend – who is a professional massage therapist – prayed over me as she kneaded and pressed into every muscle. One hour a week, for an entire year, at no charge: This was her gift to me, to be part of my healing.
Shortly after my husband left, this friend came to me after bible study one day. I was alone now – suddenly a single mom – and she knew I was hurting. She came to me with an incredible offer.
James 1:27 says,
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
The Lord had laid on her heart that even though my husband was not dead, I was now as a ‘widow’, and she was being called to care for me during this very traumatic time in my life. Prayer, healing touch, and a temporary respite from the weight of my burden. This was her offer. What an incredible gift!
This was how my perception of who the widows around us are was changed.
Widows in the Bible
Widows in the bible were specifically women whose husbands had died.
Care of Widows in the Old Testament
A widow with children, particularly sons, had provision for her future. Sons received their father’s share of the land and family wealth. With this inheritance, they could care for their widowed mother.
But if a woman had no husband and no sons to provide for her, there was little way she could provide for herself. Thank goodness there was a law that helped protect her. The Levirate Law specified that if a woman’s husband died before they had children, her husband’s brother (or closest male relative) would be required to marry her. The first son born to them would bear the name of the deceased husband and inherit his portion of the family wealth. The primary purpose was to provide an heir for the deceased man, but it also served to protect and provide for the widow. (For examples, see the stories of Tamar in Genesis 38 and Ruth in the book of Ruth.)
The community also provided for widows.
“Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.” Deuteronomy 26:12
Care of Widows in the New Testament
In the NT, families were expected to care for widows. If a widow had no family, or her family refused to help, widows over 60 and in good standing were put on a list to receive help from the church. (See 1 Timothy 5:3-18.)
Acts 6:1-7 describes how the early church cared for their widows through a daily distribution of food.
But I particularly like the way that Jesus provided for a widow in an amazing way.
Jesus traveled to the town of Nain. As he approached the town gate, he saw a young dead man being carried out on a stretcher. He was the only son of a widowed woman. (Luke 7:11-12)
Did you catch that? She was a widow. This was her only son. What does this mean? That her only means of support and security were now gone. She would be destitute.
When Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her. He comforted her saying, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13)
Then Jesus touched the stretcher and said, “Young man, get up!” At this, the dead man sat up and began talking. (Luke 7:14-15)
When Jesus raised this widow’s only son, he did more than mend a mama’s broken heart. He gave her back her only means of provision. This miracle was a demonstration of Jesus’ power over life and death, but it was also a demonstration of his great compassion and mercy.
Do we have the same compassion and mercy that Jesus did for women in great need?
Expanding Our Definition of Widows
Widows were some of the most vulnerable women in biblical times. The people of God were called to look out for the welfare of these vulnerable women.
Widows in the United States today have more options to be self-sufficient, but they still have needs. They still need our support and companionship. Widows in developing countries still struggle much like the widows of biblical times.
Who else are vulnerable women in our world today? Who else is God is calling us to look out for, to protect and care for? How can we help?
Abandoned Women, Divorced Women & Single Moms
My massage therapist friend did something she was able to do to care for me when I needed it. What skills do you have? What is it that you can do to care for one of these vulnerable women? Give a free haircut? Pick up her kids from soccer practice? Take her kids for an afternoon? Help paint her house? Maybe just be a friend and be there when she needs community.
Many elderly women don’t drive anymore. You could take the time to drive her to the store, or an appointment, or a social event. You could volunteer to do her grocery shopping for her, clean her house, or help with laundry. One of the things she probably needs most is friendship. Take the time to visit her, sit with her, listen to her and love her.
Women who experience domestic violence are at great risk. Their physical and emotional safety is at risk. Domestic violence is the number one reason for homelessness among women. Get to know the homeless shelters in your area. Support the shelters. Volunteer your time. Tutor kids.
Here are a few women’s shelters around the Twin Cities. Check online for shelters near you.
Alexandra House – (Blaine) https://www.alexandrahouse.org/
The Dwelling Place (Coon Rapids) Long term transitional housing http://www.thedwellingplaceshelter.org/
Lewis House (Dakota County) https://www.360communities.org/violence-prevention-intervention/lewis-house/
Women Escaping Sex Trafficking and the Sex Trade Industry
Breaking Free http://www.breakingfree.net/
Breaking Free is a local (to MN) organization that helps women escape the sex trafficking and the sex industry. They provide support, housing and education among other services.
Better Way Imports http://betterwayimports.com/about/index.aspx
Better Way Imports sells goods to support women escaping from sex trafficking. You can empower these women by shopping their catalog, hosting a party or becoming a Freedom Fighter and promoting home parties.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope this has helped you see God’s call to care for widows in a broader context. With your new understanding, see the women around you. Who is vulnerable? How is God calling you to care for them? Be creative. Be brave. Make a difference.
Check out our whole series, “Being the Hands & Feet of Jesus.”
Let’s be doers of the word and not just hearers only (James 1:22)!