“HONOR widows that are widows indeed.”
Not long ago We were asked to give our view of this subject, and shall now attempt to do so with such ability as may be given of the Lord.
The apostles were very careful in setting things in order not to omit anything commanded them of God. The ordinances seemed first in importance, and they were established in order and each church directed to observe them as commanded. Nothing should be added, nothing taken from them, they being perfect in the plan and purpose of the Master of the house. The rule of life, in the church, was kept before the people of God always by the apostles; not only individual members, but ministers were taught how they should behave themselves in the house of God. Paul particularly instructed Titus and Timothy with regard to their conduct toward all classes and sex. Each was to be an example of good works, holding fast the profession of their faith. In the beginning of this fifth chapter of Timothy Paul instructed him not to rebuke an elder, but entreat him as a father. The word “elder” as used here does not mean a minister of the gospel, only as he may be included with the aged, for an old man is meant by the word “elder.” It would not have been becoming in Timothy to rebuke an old man in years and experience, he being a mere boy in the way, even though a minister of the gospel; hence Paul told him to entreat him as a father; yes, a father in Israel, who had traveled long the rugged way of the pilgrim. Should there seem a difference between them in understanding of Scripture or some point of order, Timothy should think of the old man as a father, and respect him as such rather than feel that he knew all that could be known, and rebuke the old man for being less informed. If young men, sometimes young ministers, could only realize that it will require years of suffering, temptation, crosses and losses for them before they know as much as old men, it would be a great help to them and a comfort to their brethren. Not only was Timothy instructed as to how he should treat old men, but how he should treat younger ones: treat them as brethren, equals, fellows; then the elder women as mothers, giving them reverence, bestowing attention as a son should do. The younger women were to be treated as sisters, with all purity. Just as a brother would and should feel toward a sister in the flesh, so should he feel and act toward his sisters in the church – kind, gentle and thoughtful, desirous of their spiritual as well as moral welfare. After this the apostle gave, as it seems to us, what might be called the law of the church regarding the care and support of widows indeed. The word “indeed” designates the class of widows to be cared for by the church. A widow who has children to care for her is not a widow indeed. A widow who has nephews and nieces able to care for her is not a widow indeed. But a widow desolate, alone, without means, with none to assist her, and her years, “threescore,” prevent her from earning a living, is “a widow indeed,” These are the class to “be taken into the number” for care and support by the church. To meet the question sure to be asked: But suppose a church is not able to take care of such widows? we will say that the churches so commanded by the apostle must have been able to care for their widows “indeed,” else the instruction would not have been given; We know of no point of law, either of God or men, impossible to be kept. Every point of the Mosaic law could be kept and was kept by some. Saul of Tarsus, for instance, kept it strictly in the letter, so that he was blameless as touching the righteousness (obedience) thereof. It is possible to keep every point of law governing our country, though there be thousands of transgressors. Our government would not recognize as law any enactment that was impossible for its subjects to obey. Such law would make men involuntary transgressors. Therefore in considering these matters of the church we should understand that the apostles in giving such instructions were not binding impossibilities upon the churches. On one occasion Paul wrote the brethren at one place to take a collection for poor brethren in another. Because of the different circumstances he could not have reversed the matter and had the poor take a collection for the more able brethren. Along this line we should consider these things. A church able to care for widows indeed should do so, but on the other hand, those not able cannot be expected to do it, and Paul’s instruction is not applicable to them at all. There are many “widows indeed” in different parts of our land worthy of this honor, who are members of churches able to care for them, yet often no attention is paid to them at all until the sad cry of want is heard directly or indirectly. When God gave his Son to die for us, and the Son shed his precious blood for the sins of his enemies, it really seems a very small thing for the followers of Christ to minister to his body in giving his brethren bread, water, clothing, shelter, and to visit them when sick and in prison. Now, as in the days of James the apostle, there is decidedly too much distinction made between the rich and the poor children of God. James rebuked sharply the rich for their treatment of the poor, and his rebuke is as good and needful now as then. In some places there seems to be an idea that a little mite of this world’s goods adds greatly to the standing and dignity of the children of God, when indeed it is not the case at all. If children of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, ten thousand worlds like this would be less, if one possessed the whole, than the smallest mote that floats in the air in God’s account. Then why should any of us think for a moment that a few dollars make us more important in the church or in our daily lives than the poor, “rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”? Yet it is so, and as in the apostle’s day, the good clothing and the gold ring get for those who wear them the best seats in the house, while the poor brother or sister may stand, or sit under the footstool of some one. We have no record that Jesus ever acted or intimated that he felt better socially than the poorest offcast of that age of the world. He associated with the most humble of mankind. He, the King of kings and the Lord of glory, washed the feet of men, giving the example of humility, not high-mindedness, and said as he did, so should his followers do. Have no man’s person in admiration, do nothing by partiality. We have now given such as we have on the subject, and leave the matter for the consideration of our readers. K.
Elder H. C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 8
April 15, 1914