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Women Who Win

 

Creepers Without Support

The  Bible  mentions  “pure  religion”  only once.  “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 unspotted from the world” (Js 1:27). Of these two components of pure religion there is much talk about the latter but a convenient negligence of the former. But God repeatedly alerts His people to be extra-sensitive to widows.

 

“Do not take advantage of the widow.. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your  wives  will become  widows and  your children  fatherless,”  said  the Lord  (Ex

22:22). One of the reasons why Israel went into captivity was that they did not care for their widows. The prophets warned them even before their doom (Jer 7:6,7; 22:3,4).

 

The apostles specifically taught about the ministry to the widows (1 Tim 5:3-16). They spoke about the responsibility of individuals, of the church and of the widows themselves.

 

1. The Responsibility of Individuals

 

First of all we are exhorted to respect widows. “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need” (1 Tim 5:3). Greet them respectfully, whether rich or poor. Listen to what they have to tell you. Find out if you can help them in some way—and you have done a tremendous ministry for the day even before giving the help they asked for.

 

By  the  term  “really  widows”  (NKJV)  Paul  meant  the  godly  ones  who  were destitute. Never despise them. If you have such a neighbour, send some cookies or a birthday gift and invite her for some special occasions in your home and make her feel wanted. They are missing out a lot of good things in life. “Visiting widows in their trouble” means arranging for their government aid, walking to the offices or banks to get their papers signed and moved, to take them to the doctor or visit them in the hospital, helping their children and such things. They are entitled to a portion of our income. If we give them their due, God will bless “all” the work of our hands (Dt

24:19,20,21).

 

The Patriarch Job assured a dying man that he would take care of his wife. The man blessed Job as he departed from this earth. Job caused the widow to forget her sorrow and sing for joy (Job 29:13). He never took advantage of the lone woman, but was her spiritual guide. She never had to wait for her provisions (see Job 31:9-18).

 

Don’t blame your daughter-in-law for your son’s death and throw her out. What if it happens to your daughter? Don’t ill-treat your mother-in-law or grandmother who are widows. They loved and cared for you once. Now it is your opportunity to repay. Most prefer to live with the children. It hurts when they are sent to old age homes. But

 

the modern generation looks upon them as a burden. Children grow healthier with loved ones around them. It only needs a little wisdom to adjust to them.

 

Give her freedom in the house, to go out, or bring in her friends for tea. Encourage her. If you are living overseas, at least give her a holiday abroad. “If a widow has children  or grandchildren,  these should  learn  first of all to put their  religion  into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God... Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially  for  their  own  household  has  denied  the  faith  and  is  worse  than  an unbeliever,” (1 Tim 5:4,8).

 

While caring for the widow don’t have an ulterior motive of inheriting her property. Oh, what pain it is for parents to know children care for them only for their money! God is quick to witness against those  who exploit widows (Mal 3:5). He pronounced “woe”  on  those  who  preyed  on  widows  (Isa  10:1,2).  Jesus  pronounced  woe  on religious leaders who devoured widows’ houses (Mt 23:14).

 

A husband must transfer a considerable sum of money or property to his wife’s name before he even starts thinking about his death. In case of his unexpected death she should not be at the mercy of the children or relatives. Since many widows are duped, he should also let her know what he has in her name.

 

2. The Responsibility of the Church

 

The tithes and freewill offerings  in the Old Testament were also meant for the widows that they might “rejoice” during the festivities (Dt 14:28,29; 16:10-14). In the New  Testament  Church  a  daily  distribution  system  to  the  widows  through    the deacons was  practised (Acts 6:1). Women disciples also provided and cared for them (9:36,39). Subsequently Paul laid down specific instructions for the care of widows in the administrative context of the church (1 Tim 5:9,10). The younger widows were advised to marry (v14).

 

The church from its income must provide for the poor widows and extricate them from decent begging. Personal care must be given to their children and other needs. The congregation must be taught to show tangible concern towards their widowed relatives and not hoard money for five generations.

 

3. The Responsibility of the Widow

 

When you lose your husband all of a sudden, you find yourself alone and cold in a crowded world. Your own warm familiar world has crumbled to dust. Problems start springing out like genies from a bottle. But don’t let the tragedy fossilize you. Tackle problems one by one as they present themselves. Make God the oasis of the fiery desert of your future. “The widow who is really in need, and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues to pray and to ask God for help night and day ” (1 Tim

5:5).

 

Anna did just that. “... and then she was a widow until she was eightyfour. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Lk 2:36-38). Fifty years or more of widowhood! Yet no complaints. “She gave thanks to the Lord” (v38). It is up to you to go on appreciating the gift of life and doing the best you can

 

with it. Plan your future. If you can lead an independent life, good. If your children willingly take care of you, accept it. That needs some adjustments, but at least you can escape the doldrums.  Be a blessing and help to your children.  It will be good to distribute your stay with each. That way your presence will be better relished and the relationship smoother. No doubt it is hard life. But God says, “Let widows depend on Me” (Jer 49:11).

 

Don’t cling on to your son or daughter. Mingle with people of your age. You might have longed for times to quietly sit down and read or write without worrying about the next meal. Now’s your time! Be active.

 

Paul warns widows against idleness (1 Tim 5:13). Misfortune destroys some but motivates  others.  My  widowed  mother-in-law  was  desperately  in  love  with  my husband. She struggled for five years and one fine morning made a beautiful decision. She began collecting money for missionary work. Fresh breeze started blowing into her life. Then she began counselling the families she visited. Then she took courage to reach out to a nearby village. In the next five years a little congregation sprang up there. When she died, she was a Dorcas, except that we could not resurrect her. Such was  the  crowd  of  mourners.  Two  young  people  from  that  village  are  today missionaries with us. “Enlarge ... stretch out ... lengthen ... expand ... nations!” (Isa

54:1-3). Don’t lose these blessings by your idleness and timidity.

 

Your natural tendency is to save every mite for your future. But God’s laws are paradoxical. He did not send Elijah to a rich family with a double bedroom apartment. He sent him to a widow in Sidon who was about to eat the last morsel with her son and die. She gave out of her poverty and her flour and oil received a divine touch. How sadly the widows  of Israel  missed  the visitation  of the Lord! (Lk 4:24-26). Writing about widows Paul said, “The widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6). But here we find a widow’s son living after death! What an irony! (1 Ki 17:17-23).

 

Worry, fear, insecurity, tears, disappointments, depression and frustration may have become part of your life. But God says, “Do not be afraid ... For your Maker is your husband. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit  ...  with deep  compassion  I will bring  you  back..  Though  the mountains  be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken ... O you afflicted, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones with colourful gems ... sapphires ... rubies ... crystals ... precious stones” (Isa 54:4-12). Isaiah 54 is written for you. Read it and reread it. He protects you (14,15). He defends you (Psa 68:5). He establishes your border (Prov 15:25). He will perform miracles for you, because He has compassion on you (2 Ki 4:1-7; Lk 7:13).

 

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace” (Isa

54:13). King Solomon sent and called Hiram out of Tyre for the work of the temple. “He was a widow’s son ... He was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill to do all kinds of bronze work” (1 Ki 7:13-21). Blessed widow!

 

Both in the church and society the lot of young widows is  more difficult. Wives suspect you. Men take advantage of you. Eyebrows will be raised even at your normal

 

friendship with men. Therefore you should be all the more careful to lead a blameless life (1 Tim 5:7).

If loneliness is killing you, you need the companionship of a man, a father for your children, if you need a man’s help at home for your own safety or if perchance you fall in love with a suitable man who loves you and will care for your children, then please go ahead and marry (1 Cor 7:9; Rom 7:2,3). There is nothing to feel guilty about it. That in no way reduces your love or fidelity to your husband who is no more. Society or your own family may look down upon you. Face it. Even if God gives a gift the priest will not pass it on, says a Tamil proverb. We are entombed in a rigid society which will not permit even what the Bible permits.

 

There  are many distorted  notions  in  a land  like  India  where  women  try to be faithful to their dead husbands. You don’t have the dilemma of facing two husbands in heaven if you remarry! You have not understood the Scriptures. For in heaven we will be like the angels of God (Mt 22:29). In fact, after writing in the first letter to the Corinthians that the widows may choose to remain single (1 Cor 7:8,40), after seeing some real life serials, Paul strongly recommends that they marry. “I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage the home, and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander” (1 Tim 5:14). “A woman is bound  to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39). So dress well and look good. Don’t neglect your appearance.

 

We need Naomis for those who are silently shedding tears in our country. Grown up children should help the mother in this regard. The church must take the first step to get young widows married. Whenever I distribute flowers on a happy occasion my heart is inflamed at the thought that I am not expected to give to widows. Some even consider the very mention of the word “widow” as inauspicious. Some do not allow widows to welcome a new couple. Have we really turned from idols to the living God? Let us break these heart-breaking traditions. Don’t single them out while distributing flowers. Get them to sit in the front row in weddings. Ask them to bless the new couple.

 

Child marriage is still very much in vogue in India. When the husband, who may be

6 years or 16 years dies, the girl remains a widow all her life. Heartlessness! Some are kept under lock and  key.  Others  turn prostitutes.  Who  is to be blamed? It is we Christians who have closed our eyes to the shackled millions. Our bread and butter is more important to us than somebody’s soul.

 

“Plead for the widow,” says the Lord (Isa 1:17). Give them moral support. Pandita Ramabai was a widow under whose wings hundreds of ill-treated widows took shelter and thrived. Raise your voice against Sati (The practice of burning the wife in the husband’s pyre). Though abolished by the efforts of men like William Carey it is propping up its monstrous head again. We are the little Davids to fling the pebbles of truth on these heinous practices. Let’s do all that’s possible to please the God of the widows!

 

A Tamil poet describes the King Pari who saw a jasmine creeper without a support to climb. He was so moved with pity that he left his chariot for the creeper to climb on

 

and walked to his palace. Such is our culture. What do we do for the so many creepers around us without support?


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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