Plead For the Widow

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Then saith he to the disciple, ‘Behold thy mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27).

The New Testament scriptures tell us of our responsibility toward women in the church who have been faithful workers in the Lord’s vineyard whose husbands have died. What kind of ‘insurance policy’ may faithful widows expect? What can they expect from Christian children or nephews? Paul told Timothy, “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Tim 5:4-5). Then four verses later, he adds additional qualifications. “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man” (1 Tim 5:9-10). That direction to children and nephews is pretty plain, and most Biblical scholars believe it includes grandchildren as well.

Even under the Old Testament Law, God’s provision for widows was one of the most marvelous systems anywhere. The widow was to share the tithe of Israel with the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless (Deut 26:12). This appears to include any widow, whether or not she is blood related. She also was to share the joys of the annual feast (Deut 16:11). A man, his son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, the Levite, any stranger, fatherless and the widow could enjoy the bounty at the Feast of Weeks together.

The widow could also glean in the fields where she had not planted (Deut 24:19). If a man forgot a sheaf in the field or dropped some grain in the corners, he was not to go again to get it, but leave it to the stranger (foreigner), the fatherless and the widow. Ruth was a well-known widow who gleaned with the reapers (Ruth 2:8). We have read many times about how Boaz and his workers shared their meal of bread, vinegar, and parched corn with her. After they went back to work, Boaz (the owner of the field) told his reapers to leave some sheaves on purpose for her and let some grain drop so she could glean it (Ruth 2:14-16).

Part of the covenant between God and Israel was that Israel could continue to dwell in Canaan IF they did not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, shed innocent blood or walk after other gods. If they kept their part of the covenant, God would give them the land forever (Jer 7:6-7). The Israelites were to execute judgment and righteousness, and to deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the one who was oppressing them. They were to do no wrong, nor to do any violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow. Neither were they to shed innocent blood (Jer 22:3).
If the Israelites had followed what God told them to do for the widows, there never would have been a pitiful case of women starving or being mistreated. Sadly however as we read the Bible, we come across many cases of abuse. Even in Jesus’ lifetime, we read of such things as the poor widow who had nothing but two mites to give as an offering at the temple. We see her faith led her to give even though she believed she would have to starve afterward (Mark 12:42-44; Luke 21:2-3). We read of the widow of Nain whose only son had died and left her helpless (Luke 7:11-15). We read the account of the unjust judge who would not avenge the widow of her adversary until she wearied him with her continual coming (Luke 18:1-5). Who were her adversaries? Who were the ones who deliberately abused her in opposition to the laws given by God? How will God view those who oppress the widows?

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).

Beth Johnson

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive