Having instructed Timothy on how to interact with the different members of the church family, Paul continues and talks about one group in particular, widows.
3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
The main point seems to be that the family takes care of the family. If the family of a widow can care for them, they should (v.4). This is backed up when Paul writes in v.8,
8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The church is to step in, then, when there is no immediate family to provide care (v.9-10). Rather than take this as meaning that the church cares for no ladies under sixty, the idea is that the family takes care of the family first, the church should always be ready to help (Philippians 2.3-4, 1 Corinthians 12.26), but the full-time care of widows is to be taken on by the church only when no family remain (Let a widow be enrolled…).
This may sound harsh, but Paul finishes with a reason,
16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them.
Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
The church, and all of us, should be seeking to help those who truly need it. It can be hard to discern who really needs help and who is looking for a handout, so we must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 6.13) and godly counsel from those around us.
The main point here though for us today has to be that we need to be ready to help whoever, whenever, however they need it.
God’s church is always there to help the needy and help the helpers but as people, are we?