31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from the Widow in 1 Timothy 5
Yesterday we looked at the woman in Proverbs 31. Today we will look at the New Testament version of the same type of woman. We have noted before God’s perfect ability to put into writing something for everyone to hear. In Proverbs 31 the description is poetic and repetitive. In 1 Timothy 5 it is short, sweet, and to the point.
In Paul’s educating of Timothy of what to be teaching the brethren as a young preacher he turns to managing relationships with the older members of the church. In that context Paul instructs Timothy on whom can be supported financially by the congregation as a whole. He says in 1 Timothy 5:3 that “widows indeed” are to be honored and in verse nine he speaks of those who are “put on the list”. The whole point being to make sure that the church is not overly burdened by caring for those who have family (1 Tim. 5:16). This also impressed upon the brethren to care for their own people (1 Tim. 5:4, 16) instead of pushing that work off on to the church, like the Pharisees had done (Mt. 15:1-9).
In the midst of this Paul gives a description of the woman who would be permitted to be cared for by the church. She could not be young (1 Tim. 5:11-15). She had to be over sixty years old and have been the wife of one man (1 Tim. 5:9). But for our purposes, her reputation is what we want to focus upon.
having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Tim. 5:10)
Note – these are not the things she is going to begin doing NOW in order to receive support on a regular basis from the church. She has been doing these things for YEARS. In this one verse, we see an older woman who has lived her life in service to the Lord by serving others (Jn. 13:12-17).
But there is more to know about this woman. Back up to 1 Timothy 5:5-6. Beyond her being a widow, she is described as having “fixed her hope on God”, she continues in “entreaties and prayers night and day.” She is NOT someone who gives herself to “wanton pleasure”. The English Standard Versions reads, “self-indulgent”. Paul says that these qualifications are for her benefit as well as the congregation’s (1 Tim. 5:7).
This woman did not arrive at widowhood without these things and then very quickly put them on so the elders would be willing to support her. “Having a reputation for good works” does not happen overnight. It is built over time and through relationships. The implication from “she has devoted herself to every good work” is that this will be an ongoing thing for her. She is going to continue to do these things as long as she is able. She is not going to fall into the trap the younger widows fall into of being idle. She WILL NOT have time! Praying night and day, caring for the needs of other saints in the congregation, caring for the needs of strangers who come her way – this will be how this good woman will fill her time. Now that she is no longer married, she can FOCUS her attention on spiritual matters, as Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35.
One could take 1 Timothy 5:5-10 and write an outline from it for Proverbs 31. Everything the woman in Proverbs 31 does falls into the six types of things the Widow here does. Anyone trying to decide if a widow, over the age of 60 was qualified to be supported by the treasury could look to Proverbs 31 for examples of what to look for in the widow’s life. These lists could be about the SAME woman! One shows her younger, with children, and a bustling household. The other shows her older, having outlived her husband and her children, home no longer bustling with family, but full of other people she has found to serve.
Young women if you have any desire to seen as a Proverbs 31 woman or a woman like the widow in 1 Timothy 5, you need to begin TODAY. These are two very serious examples to follow. Did you notice something about them both? It is the same thing that we noticed about Mary and Martha, Anna, and Elizabeth. These women are BUSY!
Proverbs 31:27 describes the virtuous woman and the worthy widow! Notice that in 1 Timothy 5 it is the younger widows who have a tendency to misuse their time and talents. This does not mean that an older woman will not become a gossip (Titus 2:3). It just means that a younger woman is more LIKELY to do so. This is why older women are meant to have the discipline instilled in their own lives well enough to instruct the younger women (Titus 2:3-5).
Do not allow Satan to make you feel intimidated by these women. Remember, they did not happen overnight. The did not say “I do” and become good housekeepers, loving wives, and caretakers of the needy and sick. They could have been these things, to one degree or another, BEFORE they were “married women”, but they just as easily could have had to LEARN these things as they went along. As a single woman, you may have obligations that you do not yet need to meet – being a wife and mother are the two obvious ones. In your youth you can be a helper of the needy – you just need to look for opportunities. You need to ASK what you can do, where you are needed. Begin by LEARNING how to teach a Bible class. You certainly cannot teach on until you have learned how! Study your Bible to increase your knowledge so that you are already have some when it comes time to learn how to share it with others. Learn to cook. You cannot get meals to people who are ill if you cannot make the meal. Start at the beginning and do not begrudge the journey! The character of the woman in Proverbs 31 and the widow in 1 Timothy 5 built reputations that people could count on. You CAN do the same. All you need do is put your focus on WORKING for the Lord, as these women did. Do that and you WILL be a fruitful “worker of the Lord” just like them!