Does the Bible say anything about how to treat widows?

The Bible has much to say about how God views widows and how His people are to treat this vulnerable group. Psalm 146:9 says, "The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless." Deuteronomy 10:18 says, "He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner." So God, Himself, is concerned with the plight of widows. In fact, Jesus embodied this concern while He walked this earth. Luke 7:13–15 records, "And when the Lord saw her [a widow], he had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' Then he came up and touched the bier ... And the dead man sat up ... and Jesus gave him to his mother." Jesus saw the widow, was moved by her grief to take action, and remedied the situation by returning her son to her so that she would have someone to care for her. This woman had value in God's eyes. Jesus again displayed the value widows hold when He lifted up a widow as an example for His disciples to follow. In Luke 21:2–4 Jesus "saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, 'Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'" This widow's generosity toward God and complete trust in Him were to be noticed, admired, and imitated.

God views widows not only as a vulnerable group in need of compassion or as a positive teaching tool, but also as important members of the community capable of ministry. In Luke 2:36–38 Anna's story is briefly recorded. She had been married, but her husband passed away only seven years after their wedding, and she lived her remaining years in the temple worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. At eighty-four years old, she was known as a prophetess speaking forth the word of God. When baby Jesus was brought to the temple for His dedication, Anna "began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). This widow served in the temple, recognized Jesus as the awaited Messiah, and shared that message with the community. In the Old Testament, God used a widow to rescue Elijah when his life was in danger saying, "Behold, I have commanded a widow there [in Zarephath] to feed you" (1 Kings 17:9). So God sees these women as valuable people able to be effective in ministry, as positive examples to follow (see also Luke 18:3–5), and as a group worthy of compassion and defense.

Based on God's view of widows, He also included in the Bible some instructions for how His people should treat them. The responsibility to care for a widow first falls on her children and/or grandchildren. First Timothy 5:4 says, "if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God." In the Old Testament if a widow had no children, the responsibility was then passed to her brother-in-law to provide for and care for her (Deuteronomy 25:5). So a widow's family and extended family are called to look out for her welfare. However, James 1:27 makes it clear that all Christians should concern themselves with widows' plight stating, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." First Timothy 5:9–16 call for widows in need to be enrolled on a list so that the church "may care for those who are truly widows." Even in the Old Testament, God's people were called to specifically include widows during their feasts and festivals (Deuteronomy 16:11, 14). Believers should value widows and have compassion on them the same way God does.

The Bible records not only God's view of widows and His expectations for how His people should care for them, but also the standards for how society in general should treat widows. Widows should not be mistreated (Exodus 22:22) or oppressed (Zechariah 7:10). Society is to take up their cause (Isaiah 1:17) and provide justice (Deuteronomy 27:19). And people should give "so that they [widows, fatherless, sojourners] may eat within your towns and be filled" (Deuteronomy 26:12). God obviously cares deeply for these women who have lost their husbands and may now be alone in the world. So He calls us to notice these widows and have compassion on them, protecting them from those who might take advantage, providing for their needs, and allowing them to serve in whatever capacity the Lord may still have for them in which to minister.

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