9 No widow should be placed on the official support list unless she is at least 60 years old, has been the wife of one husband, 10 and is well known for good works — that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when they are drawn away from Christ by desire, they want to marry 12 and will therefore receive condemnation because they have renounced their original pledge, (1 Tim. 5: 9-11 HCSB).
Here are a few insights for helping others that we learn from this passage:
- Helping the poor should be personal, not impersonal. Relationship matters, providing assistance should not just be a financial transaction; churches should offer to invest in the spiritual and emotional health of those who ask for assistance. This passage teaches that those who just want a handout and though capable, don’t want to invest back in the community are not eligible for assistance. The contribution of personally giving of themselves is actually a key component of getting back on their feet. Serving others is essential to creating the personal dignity needed to get out of the poverty cycle.
- There is nothing wrong with having character or membership requirements before providing long-term support. If it is clear that someone is asking for help in order to avoid responsibility, a church can cause harm by enabling them. This can only be known in relationship, not application forms. An abundance of grace should be given with extra allowance for failures and setbacks. However, if someone indicates little interest in improving their situation, it is best to wait to offer support.
- There is nothing wrong with first asking families to do their share to help provide before providing long-term support. This step shouldn’t be skipped just because someone is ashamed to ask his family nor if the family wants to first work the “system” rather than providing for their own.
- A church should have funds ready to go for long-term support of qualified individuals. Churches shouldn’t be so afraid of improperly using funds that no one can ever be eligible for help.
How do you or your church determine how to help those in need in your community?
More of the passage: Support widows who are genuinely widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and to repay their parents, for this pleases God. 5 The real widow, left all alone, has put her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers; 6 however, she who is self- indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command this also, so they won’t be blamed. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:3-8