Sunday, December 03, 2006

Matt's Messages - Worthy Widows

“Worthy Widows”
December 3, 2006
1 Timothy 5:3-16

I had every intention of preaching a message today on the biblical teaching about singleness. In the last two weeks, I’ve done many hours of research and read several hundred pages about singleness in the Bible in preparation for that particular message. But I feel that I need still another week to get all of my thoughts together in way that will best serve you. So, please pray for me this week, as I spend another week trying to more fully prepare.

Today, instead of giving the big picture on singleness, I want to direct our attention together to a special category of singles called “widows.”

When preaching on the Christian family, marriage is justifiably front and center. And parenting is next in line. But often missed (and sometimes ignored) is the biblical importance of widows.

In Bible times, women who had lost their husbands were in a very perilous position. They did not have very many legal rights and few means of supporting themselves.

But God cares about widows! The Old Testament calls God “a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows.” (Ps. 68:5)

And so, God’s people, the church, are also supposed to care for those in need.

In fact, in Timothy’s day, the church was supposed to establish a list of those widows who belonged to the church and who were really in need–a list of those who should receive permanent care from the church–they would become “wards of the church” so-to-speak and be supported by the ministry of the church.

And in 1 Timothy 5:3-16, the Apostle Paul lays out a set of criteria for determining which widows to put on the list and which ones not to.

Let’s read it. 1 Timothy 5:3-16.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Which widows should go on the list and which ones shouldn’t? That could be a pretty difficult question to answer–and cause quite a lot of problems in the church.

Which widows should go on the list and which ones shouldn’t? One major criteria for being put on the list for permanent widow-care was genuine need. V.16 “...the church [should] help widows who are really in need.”

Those widows who had families should be taken care of by...their families (not the church).

This is important. V.4 says that children should repay their parents by taking care of them in their old age as something pleasing to God. [Robin & Drew!] V.8 says that people who don’t provide for their relatives are denying the faith and are worse than unbelievers [That’s quite a strong thing to say!]. V.16 says that if a woman can take care of a widow in her family, then she should so that the church is unburdened to help those who are in genuine need.

It is important for us to take care of those family members of ours who have genuine needs. And I think that we have some really good models of that right here in our church.

And it’s also really important that the church take care of those who don’t have anyone to take care of them. To try as hard as we can to meet their genuine needs.

Now, the second major criteria in this passage (and the one I want to spend most of our time on this morning) is genuine godliness.

The widows who were to be put on the list for permanent care were to exhibit genuine godliness.

And that’s because the list was not just to care for the widows, but to HONOR THEM. Look with me at v.3.

“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.”

Proper Recognition. Or (KJV, NASB, ESV) “Honor.” Give honor to those widows.

These “list-widows” were not just in need of financial support.

They were widows worthy of honor.

If you are a widow, do you desire to be a widow worthy of honor?

If you are married, if your husband dies before you, do you desire to be a widow worthy of honor?

I think that we have a lot of women right here who want to be godly like this. And I think that our women will find a lot of encouragement and inspiration in these verses.

What’s it take to be a widow worthy of this kind of honor?

7 points this morning. Each will be brief but important.


Look with me at v.5.

“The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God...” Stop there for a second.

The kind of woman whom the church should both care for in her old age and revere as a genuinely godly woman, puts her hope in God.

Let me ask you a question, women. What are you hoping in?

A husband? A career? A family? Your beauty? Your clothing? Your credit card?

Women who are worthy of honor hope in God. They throw themselves on God’s grace and put all their eggs in His basket.

The widows that Paul is talking about had very little choice. Left without a family to care for them, approaching old age, they had very few crutches to lean on.

They learned to put their trust, not in chariots or horses, but in the Name of the Lord our God.

Isn’t there something powerful about a woman whose hope is in God and not in themselves or in anything else?

Can you think of someone like that? Someone who puts all their faith in God’s promises?

That’s a woman worthy of honor.

She knows where to go for help. That’s point #2.


“The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.”

Widows Worthy of Honor Ask God for Help.

They are prayerful. They are humble. They are dependent.

Our culture does not value dependence. Women are praised these days for being in-dependent and not showing any sign of weakness.

But Paul says that widows to be put on the list for honor should exhibit dependence upon God. They don’t trust themselves and their own resources–they go to God for help.

Ladies, where do you get your help?

These widows, worthy of honor, were prayer-warriors.

I love that we have prayer-warrior widows in our church. Don’t stop that. Ever. Paul says, they pray “night and day.” That’s all the time. 24/7.

A woman like that should receive honor.

V.6 describes the opposite: “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.”

This is a woman who doesn’t hope in God, doesn’t ask God for help, but instead hopes in pleasure and takes her life into her own hands. She is spiritually dead.

A woman like that should never be put on the list. Not that the church couldn’t meet some of her genuine needs–of course they should, but she shouldn’t be lifted up as an example to others.

Christian women who hope in God and ask God for help should be honored.


Widows Worthy of Honor Were One-Man Women. Skip down to v.9.

“No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband...” Stop there for a second.

The phrase in Greek here could be rendered, “A one-man-woman.” But the NIV has it just right in saying it means, “Faithful to her husband” (when she had one!).

Not that she could have been married only once, but that she was devoted to that one man while he lived. He was her husband. She was loyal. She didn’t even think about other men.

She wan’t infatuated with Harrison Ford or some great guy at work or a child-hood sweetheart when they came around.

Her husband was her main squeeze!

Even if he isn’t that much of a prize.

Ladies, are you a one-man woman?

If not, what do you need to change to get there?

I used to know a young lady at Moody Bible Institute who lived on the 4th floor of Smith Hall who was known as the Guy-Magnet. Her name, at the time, was Heather Joy Lundeen.

She had a different date every night of the week. And she loved all the attention she got from all of those guys.

And then one day, God got a hold of her and made her fiercely loyal to one man and one man only. And boy am I glad!

If I go first, Heather will be honored as a one-man woman.


“[She] has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”

I love that last phrase: “all kinds of good deeds.” That covers a lot of things.

These widows had a reputation for ministry. Especially ministry at home.

There is no tougher job than homemaker!

Child-rearing is a strenuous good deed. And anyone who has reputation for doing it–deserves some honor in my book!

Hospitality is a good deed. Women are commended for opening their home in ministry. Is your home open for the Lord to use?

“Washing the feet of the saints” means ministering in serving capacities within the church. I think of our hard-working hospitality committee and their vital ministry to our church–don’t forget to sign-up for next Sunday’s special dinner.

“Helping those in trouble.” These women, even though they didn’t have very much, were sharing, sacrificing, caring for those who had even bigger needs!

That deserves honor.

Ladies, what kind of ministries do you have? You can see here that God honors women who serve. It doesn’t have to be up-front and leadership-oriented. It can be simple and mostly invisible, but oh, so important.

A woman who is busy with good deeds is worthy of honor.


“As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.”

Do you see what’s happened here?

Some of the women who were under 60 (maybe much younger) had lost their husbands. But they shouldn’t be put on the list for care and honor because it wouldn’t be good for them.

Eventually, while being supported by the church, they would have lots of free time to chase after men–perhaps nonChristian men. And instead of working for their living while they had youth and strength–their hormones and desires for a husband would get the best of them and they would abandon Jesus for any man.

The KJV says, they “cast off their first faith.” That is, they don’t care what Jesus says, and what He wants for them. They chase after a man, any man.

But a woman worthy of honor loves Jesus first and foremost. What Jesus says goes. He is their first love. He is their first pledge.

Not that they can’t marry again. In fact, Paul recommends it. But they should do nothing that Jesus doesn’t want. He should come first, not their desires.

So, Ladies, is Jesus your first love?

I know that some of you desperately want a man to love you. And that is not an unnatural desire. But it must be secondary to loving Jesus! He’s got to be first.

This is another one of the things that I respect the most about my wife. She loves Jesus more than she loves me. That might intimidate some guys, but I recognize that it is the purest love for me that loves me secondly.

Women worthy of honor love Jesus first and foremost.


Unfortunately, some of the women at Ephesus were not. V.13.

“Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”

These widows fell into bad habits that would preclude them from being on God’s Honor Roll.

They weren’t careful with time. Instead they became idle. They spent their days watching soap-operas and reading romance-novels! They didn’t have anything better to do but go from house to house stirring things up. Today, we’d say, “They spent all their time in chat-rooms on the Internet!”

And they weren’t careful with words. They became gossips, spilling words into people’s ears that they didn’t need to share.

And they weren’t careful with reputations. They became busybodies (what a descriptive word!), poking their noses where it doesn’t belong and then passing along the rumors.

Women like that are a problem.

We need women who make the most of their time. Who are careful with the words they use. And who treat others’ reputations as they would priceless china. And we should revere those who do.

Ladies, do you need a little work here?

Are you wasting time?
Are you interested too much in gossip?
Have you passed on too much information about someone?

God wants our women to be careful with time, words, and reputation. He loves that! He delights in women like that.


“So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.”

The church in Ephesus had women who had gone off in wrong directions. And they had brought shame and dishonor to the Christian community and the church. Some had just blatantly dropped even the pretense of Christianity and followed after Satan!

So Paul wants Timothy to encourage the women of the church to find appropriate places of ministry, industry, and usefulness, and He wants them to give Satan no room for accusations and slander in the neighborhood.

Ladies, what kind of reputation do you have in your community? Is there any room for people to talk? Do you know that it reflects back on us as a church?

There is forgiveness. There is cleansing. Don’t get me wrong. The church should be a hospital full of hurting sinners who have screwed up their lives.

But it should also be a place of much healing where we are learning to grow in godliness so that we get a reputation of being above reproach. When we sin, we ‘fess up and get it straightened out. When we mess-up, we sort it out with God and with those we’ve sinned against.

And we give Satan no satisfaction. We don’t go his way. We follow Jesus wherever he leads us.

Women who are worthy of honor give Satan no satisfaction.

I’m glad that we have godly widows in our church family.

And I pray that every woman here would be worthy of being put on the list of those to be revered.

Be a godly woman:

Hope in God.
Ask God for Help.
Be a One-Man Woman.
Get Busy With Good Deeds.
Love Jesus First and Foremost
Be Careful with Time, Words, and Reputations.
And Give Old Satan No Satisfaction!

Worship at the Lord’s Table

There is not one woman here who fully fits the example that 1 Timothy 5 puts in front of us.

No one is really worthy. Not on their own.

And there is no man here worthy of a woman like that.

Everyone here is a sinner.

That’s why we are building our families on the Gospel.

And that’s what this table is all about. Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. To be our Rescuer. And to make us holy. To bring a measure of holiness and honorableness to each of our lives.

He asks that we repent (that means to turn) from our sins and trust in Himself and what He did on the Cross.

And for all who do, there is forgiveness and power for change.

If you are faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you are invited to eat and drink this memorial meal with this church family.

If you are not yet a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, you are not invited to eat and drink with us. Please take this time to assess your relationship with Him.