If any believing woman has dependent widows, she must assist them and not allow the church to be burdened, so that it can help the widows who are truly in need.
I. THE DUTY OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN TO SUPPORT THEIR WIDOWED RELATIVES. "If any woman that believes hath widows, let support be given to them." The allusion is probably to the younger widows, whose future would be very uncertain till, at least, they should marry. The apostle had already provided for the case of aged widows. It was the plain duty of relatives to watch over the welfare of the younger women, who might be sisters, sisters-in-law, or nieces. The apostle founds the duty upon the principle that the gospel has not superseded, but rather strengthened, the claims of kinship.
II. REASONS FOR THE DISCHARGE OF THIS PRIVATE DUTY. "And let not the Church be burdened, that it may relieve those that are widows indeed."
1. It would burden the Church greatly to increase the number of the pensioners on its generosity.
2. The exercise of private beneficence would allow a fuller provision to be made for those aged widows who were really friendless, homeless, and destitute. - T.C.
May relieve them that are widows indeed.
I. THAT THOSE RECEIVED TO PERMANENT SUPPORT SHOULD BE ONLY SUCH AS ARE AGED OR WEAK. In the ninth verse we read, "Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old"; or (as the R.V. more correctly has it) "Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old." A woman over sixty in Asia Minor (though it would be otherwise in our healthier, cooler climate) could no longer work, nor do much for the Church either, except by her prayers and supplications (another proof that officials are not referred to). Widows thus infirm and aged were to receive constant and generous support. But nothing was to be done, even under the sacred name of charity, which would paralyse personal exertion or weaken the sense of responsibility in relatives and friends. Paul's second principle is this —
II. THAT THOSE WHOSE CHARACTER IS CHRISTIAN HAVE SPECIAL CLAIMS ON THE SUPPORT OF THE CHURCH. He is not referring here to the relief of distress which is the duty of every Christian, hut to the use of the charitable funds given by the Church for distribution among her members. How beautiful is the picture of the true Christian matron, as depicted by the few touches of this masterhand in verses 5 and 10. Think of her motherliness, one who has brought up her children aright. Very beautiful, too, are the thoughts suggested of her lowly, loving ministry. Entertaining strangers, for the Lord's sake; not necessarily because she was rich, but because she was kind.
III. The last principle which should guide us in the selection of those who may live on the charity of the Church is this, THAT THEY SHOULD BE REJECTED WHO WOULD BE MORALLY INJURED BY DEPENDING ON IT. At first sight the apostle seems rather hard upon the younger women; although it is evident from the 15th verse that he was not speaking from theory, but from actual and painful experience, and that some in the Church at Ephesus had already fallen into the evils to which he refers, having lost their first simple faith in Jesus Christ, and their former consecration to Him. He implies that ecclesiastical arrangements had aggravated their temptations, and he strongly urges that younger widows who might properly receive special help and solace for a time, ought not to be put on the roll of the Church for perpetual relief. His reason is given plainly enough. "They learn to be idle," says he, "wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." Right as it was to support the aged and infirm, it would be morally injurious to support by charity these younger women. Idleness is always a fruitful parent of sins, of which gossip, meddlesomeness, and unprofitable talk are not the greatest; and the best preventive of this would be to throw Christian women as far as possible on their own resources, to let them take a good opportunity for settling in life, to exert themselves for their own maintenance, or to care for another household, as the brave and patient servants of Jesus Christ. Any one who knows the pernicious effects produced by ill-regulated charity, any one who reflects on the vices common to the idle classes of society, any one who has noticed the moral deterioration of young people who have nothing to do but to while away their time, will thank God for these wise counsels.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
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