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Is it My Responsibility to Help the Widows and Orphans?

Is it My Responsibility to Help the Widows and Orphans?

I couldn’t help but feel a tug every time I rode by my neighbor’s house and saw the “Be a Foster Parent, Be a Child’s Hero!”  My heart hurts for children in foster care, and I always feel a twinge of guilt for not opening our home. I shared my feelings of unease with my husband and asked if we should consider helping. My husband gently inquired, “ Do you feel guilt or conviction?”  

Sometimes, we can confuse these two feelings. We allow societal pressures, the desire to please people, or tell ourselves to do x,y,z because we feel misplaced guilt. However, when it comes to helping the most vulnerable of society, we should prayerfully consider what God is asking us to do, ensuring we are doing what He desires, not what we feel obligated or pressured to do by others. If you struggle to discern what it means to care for the widows and orphans, let’s look and see what Scripture tells us.

Who Are the Widows and Orphans?

This seems straightforward, but we need to expand on who Paul spoke about in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 when he instructed Timothy to care for the widows and orphans. Unlike most women in today’s Western world, when a woman’s husband died in Bible times, she was left in a difficult situation. Women didn’t hold property, work was limited, and were often treated as second-hand citizens. Their options for survival were limited, so the church needed to step in to help women who lost their spouses. 

Paul urges us to give proper care to widows in need (1 Timothy 5:3). We might ask, “How do you determine which widow has the greatest need for help?” Paul, in verses 4-8, tells us that if a widow has children, grandchildren, or relatives of any kind, it is their responsibility to take care of her. Those women who have no one should receive first priority and charity from the church. Regarding orphans, we don’t find that Scripture gives as many qualifications for aid, past “those who are fatherless,”  and offers strict instructions not to take advantage of these children and that they should be protected and defended (Exodus 22:22, Isaiah 1:16-17). 

Why Does the Bible Specifically Name the Widows and Orphans?

The Ten Commandments give us instructions for how to live a godly life; the first five deal with our relationship with the Lord, and the second half deal with our relationships with others. Jesus shared that we should love God and others (Matthew 32:36-40). These commands are a general call to care for people we interact with: our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and community.

But James 1:27 tells us to take care of specific groups of people, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” God cares and sees the struggles of the most vulnerable members of society. While our world focuses on those who have power and influence and can control and influence others, the Lord gives attention to the outcasts, overlooked and less fortunate. 

Think about a newborn baby; they depend on someone else to care for them and can’t survive independently. While not all widows are elderly, most of them have physical limitations and, therefore, need help with daily tasks.  It makes sense that God would draw believers' attention to those who can’t care for themselves. While there are numerous needs in the world, these two groups traditionally depend on others, making it more vital that Christians step up and step in when they can meet a demand.

What Does Helping Widows and Orphans Look Like Practically?

There are only 24 hours a day, and we have multiple responsibilities, so how do we decide who and what we should give our time and resources to?

As we looked at earlier, Paul clearly states that if you have any family members who have lost a spouse, you are responsible for caring for them. In our modern world, spouse abandonment is an unfortunate reality, and we must also consider how we can help women who find themselves in this situation. Please look within your family for women who might need assistance before considering assisting other women who fit these qualifications. 

If you start to sweat a bit, don’t worry. I am not going to suggest you ask your mother-in-law to move in with you. If the  Lord lays that on your heart, then sure, pray about it and make room! But, for the most part, there are many things we can do to help these women in our lives.

  • Does your great-aunt love to go to the movies but can’t drive anymore? Schedule a day-date and take her to the theatre, maybe even grab dinner too!
  • Is your nana struggling to keep up with her medical bills? Offer to sit down with her and get organized, perhaps setting a few hours a month to manage her finances.
  • Is there a woman in your church who you know has been having some financial difficulties since the passing of her husband? Put together a church yard sale and donate the profits to help her get back on her feet.

In terms of helping orphans, yes, there is always, and will always be, the opportunity to offer your home, become a foster parent, or even adopt children. However, God hasn’t called everyone to the foster care ministry, so if you don’t feel that God has placed it on your heart to care for foster children, that’s okay; there are still plenty of ways to help!

  • Grab a group of friends and offer to feed and watch the kids while the foster parents have monthly training sessions.
  • Put together a back-to-school drive, Christmas party, gift exchange, or host birthday pirates for foster children.
  • Send notes of encouragement and put in a gift card for meals, gas, or groceries if you can. Let the foster parents know that you are praying for them and they are not alone! 
  • Plan a fundraiser, offer to pick up kids from school if needed, be a shoulder for foster parents to cry on, or an ear for them to share their struggles.

These are just a few suggestions; we can minister to widows and orphans in endless ways. We can’t help everyone, and God didn’t intend us to take on the world's weight; he is sovereign and controls all. He is limitless and all-powerful, not us! But, we can prayerfully consider how the Lord wants us to help these two groups of people in our communities, churches, and lives. Next time you see a sign or an opportunity to serve, give it a second thought and remind yourself of the greatest example, Jesus, who came as a lowly baby to do and not be served and ultimately gave His life so that those who believe could be with God for all eternity.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Halfpoint

Laura Bailey headshotLaura Bailey is a Bible teacher who challenges and encourages women to dive deep in the Scriptures, shift from an earthly to an eternal mindset, and filter life through the lens of God’s Word.  She is the author of Beyond the Noise, and loves any opportunity to speak and teach women of all ages. She is a wife and momma to three young girls. Connect with her on her website,  www.LauraRBailey.com, Facebook and Instagram.

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