No founder, leader or prophet of any other major world religion loves and values women as much as Jesus does. Throughout His ministry, He demonstrated His heart for widows and mothers…
- Defended Them – “They (religious leaders) devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40)
- Praised Them – “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.’” (Mark 12:43)
- Healed Them – “Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her.” (Luke 4:38)
- Honored Their Requests – “People (mothers) were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13, 16)
- Performed Miracles for Them – “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” (Luke 7:12-13)
- Listened to their Prayers – “And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’” (Luke 18:3)
- Elevated Their Needs above the Church’s – “But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God.’” (Matthew 15:5)
- Warned Them – “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.” (Luke 21:23)
- Kept Them from Becoming Single Moms – Twice in the book of Matthew, Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9)
- Loved and Cared for His Own Mother – “and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:27)
The Apostles understood that Jesus held widows and mothers in high regard, continuing to emphasize to church leaders how important they should be to the Church…
- James emphasized the call to serve them – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27)
- Peter emphasized their role in evangelism – “He (Peter) took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows…” (Acts 9:41)
- Paul emphasized our need to respect them – “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
The message from Jesus and His disciples is clear: Each of us is to treat all women – old and young, inside or outside our churches – as we would treat our own mothers or sisters. When Christians (who ARE the living, breathing personification of Church) encounter a widow or single mom, Jesus’ words should ring in our ears, “Here is your mother” (or “Here is your sister”).
What Should Your Church Be Doing?
1 Timothy 5 elaborates on the Church’s responsibilities: ”The church should take loving care of women whose husbands have died if they don’t have anyone else to help them. But if they have children or grandchildren, these are the ones who should take the responsibility… The church should care for widows who are poor and alone in the world if they are looking to God for his help and spending much time in prayer; but not if they are spending their time running around gossiping, seeking only pleasure and thus ruining their souls. This should be your church rule so that the Christians will know and do what is right. Let me remind you again that a widow’s relatives must take care of her and not leave this to the church to do. Then the church can spend its money for the care of widows who are all alone and have nowhere else to turn.” (1 Timothy 5:3-7, 16 – TLB)
As with children in need (which we discussed last week), widows and single moms who attend church should be in less distress than their unchurched counterparts if churches are fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for their “brothers and sisters”. Women “in distress”, “poor” and “alone in the world” outside the church body are included in those James and Paul are urging churches to care for as their own mothers and sisters. Otherwise the church is failing to practice “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless.”
Jesus expects His Church to look out not only for widows but also single mothers – and for good reason. Then as now, they’ve always had it rough…
- Grieving a lost husband or marriage
- Lonely for companionship, but often hard to find a new relationship when they’re older or have kids
- Financially strapped, with the loss of a husband’s income and often a “deadbeat” dad delinquent on child support
- Sometimes working more than one job, not able to spend much quality time with the children
- Sole responsibility for chores around the house and solo parenting, which can be exhausting
Given their plight, Jesus’ example, and biblical imperatives, what should your church be doing to reach out to and serve widows and single moms inside and outside the church? (Note: Don’t forget that the word “church” means not only the collective body but you individually as a “called out one”…”belonging to the Lord”)…
- First of all, ensure that there aren’t any struggling mothers or lonely widows within your church (Acts 2:44-46)
- Form outreach teams or launch ministries specifically designed to identify and support single moms and widows in the community by providing free child care, meals, financial aid, legal services, etc.
- Mentor and tutor children suffering from the loss of a father or victimized by broken relationships, knowing how little attention those kids will receive unless someone else steps into their lives and the high likelihood they will run off course without a Christian role model (e.g. 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, and young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail).
Yet because few churches are engaged in those types of ministries (because “church” is now defined as a “place” and the lost in the community is no longer considered the Church’s “customer”), other ministries have had to bear those burdens. Moreover, each of those ministries has struggled even to engage churches as partners in their work. For example:
- Job and career training ministries like Jobs for Life and HireLiving
- Meal delivery and compassion ministries like Meals on Wheels and Metropolitan Ministries
- Church-school partnership ministries providing mentoring and tutoring opportunities like BeUndivided and Church Adopt a School Initiative
It’s Your Turn
How did churches today develop this blind spot, obstructing their view of responsibilities clearly spelled out in Scriptures to help widows and single mothers inside and outside the congregation?