We were speaking in our former essay of those who are widows indeed; those who are actually widows, answering to the Scriptural portrait of a widow. A widow, we saw, is one who is “bereft” of a husband. According to the Hebrew term ahmanah she is one who is “silent.” A woman who has put on the garments of widowhood has put on the garments of silence.
Concerning such widows Paul gives Timothy some very definite instructions!
It should be remembered that such a widow, who is a widow indeed, is one who has no earthly means of sustenance. She has no children or grandchildren; there are none to provide her with earthly necessities of food and clothing. She has all reasons for anxious care and to say: what shall I eat and what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed.
When such a widow is a Christian (and that is the viewpoint here in the text), she is characterized by being “alone.” That is her perpetual state. She is such up till the present moment; it is not such for a few moments and then is past. She has, in fact, really nothing else to look forward to. As far as this present life is concerned the candle of her hope is extinguished. Her husband has died and he shall not return. Another husband she does not anticipate to have. She is therefore very much alone. And she would live utterly alone were it not that the LORD is her husband!
All her hope is placed upon the Lord. Each morning and evening, by night and by day, she turns to the LORD, her faithful covenant God for help and for strength. She hath her hope set upon God. The tense in the Greek is the perfect tense! Constantly up till the present moment you find her rejoicing in God her Savior. She is the perfect picture of devotion. You see her sitting alone at the table with the bare necessities of life. Luxuries she does not permit herself, nor does she covet them. Bread and water is her staple of life. The Bible lies before her with its well-worn and thumbed pages as the Bread of life. Folding her wrinkled hands and bony fingers and closing her eyes in prayer, she walks as seeing the unseen God in faith! Upon Him is all her hope and from Him alone is all her expectation for both the necessities of this life and the life to come. Living alone she is never alone. He is always near to her; His presence she experiences. The night seasons are for her the quiet hours of the heavenly Father looking down upon her from His celestial pavilion. She hears the footsteps of the Almighty in the changing seasons; for the Lord is coming to deliver her from her “silence” of widowhood. And she whispers in hope: Come Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. In living hope she lifts her longing eyes and hears the Spirit and the Bride say: Maranatha, Jesus comes! The consolation of Israel is so very, very real to one who is a widow indeed. She has set her hope upon God!
In the loneliness of her widowhood she continues in prayers and supplication. It is prayer for her, by day and by night, to the God of Jacob, who is not a God of the dead but of the living. She presents her cause, the widow’s cause before God’s throne. What a tender care she receives; she is heard ere she asks. Asking more grace, she receives more grace from the never-ending fountain of mercy! The fountain never runs dry. God is never weary of hearing the cry of the widow. He will speedily justify her cause and destroy all those who perpetrate injustice toward her.
Not every widow, however, is such a widow. There are also widows, particularly young widows, who live wantonly, are dead while they are living. Their real condition is that they are dead. As much as the “real widow” is constantly in loneliness and yet in fellowship with God, so these are in the midst of death; dead in trespasses and sins they are. They live only for the present, and that, too, for fleshly delights of the senses. Their purpose in life is to eat, drink and be merry. Strangers and pilgrims upon earth they are not. When loneliness consumes them they seek relief in attempting to destroy their problem, rather than in solving it. Attempting to “live it up” they are very really dead. They join the people of the “lonely hearts club,” only to find that misery loves company, and that the miserable are very poor comforters. Such are guilty with the sin of voluptuous sensuality as described in Ezekiel 16:49: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Again we are here reminded of what we read in Amos 6:4: “that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that sing idle songs to the sound of the viol . . . that drink wine in the bowls and anoint themselves with chief oils; but they are not grieved with the affliction of Joseph.”
Such are the widows who live sumptuously and riotously; these are dead while they live.
Such must not be sustained and reckoned with those who need to receive gifts of mercy! That is only for those who are widows indeed!
Let it be remembered!
There is a saying, a Jewish saying, that goes as follows: “The righteous live while in the midst of death; the wicked are dead while they live.”
We intimated that there are widows and widows. Not only are there godly widows in distinction from evil ones, but there are also needy widows in distinction from those who have none of their kith and kin to support them. There are widows who have children, grandchildren and nephews. When widows have such relatives it is the duty of them to support their widowed mother and grandmother. The duty does not fall upon the state, upon old age pension, upon social security, nor does it fall upon the diaconate in the church. There is a saying: charity begins at home!
It should be borne in mind, that, strictly speaking, the support of an aged, widowed mother is not charity in the usual sense of the term. Rather it is repaying a debt; it is to “requite the parents.” This is not simply an act of love; it is really one of strictest justice too. It is certainly the judgment of Almighty God upon a people when this “requiting of parents” is substituted by “State relief,” and “medicare for the aged.” What cannot be done by sense of duty and Christian stewardship will then be done by dent of necessity of law! Let it not be forgotten. This is even understood in the world where men have natural light, have a sense of right and wrong in things natural. In the ethics of the Greek thinkers the care for the parents is a law of nature. It is related that Aristotle said: “We must care for our parents rather than for ourselves, and must give honor to them even as they to the gods.” And Plutarch says: “that all people say, even though some may think differently, that it is demanded by nature and the law of nature, that next to the gods, the highest honor must be accorded to parents; that nothing is more pleasing to the gods, than willingly care for parents, and that there is no greater evidence of lack of reverence for the gods, than to despise parents. The daughter of Simon is reputed to have nursed her father from her own breast in prison. And Aeneas delivered his aged father from burning Troy, and carried him upon his back from the ruins of the city.”
When Paul, therefore, teaches that they who despise their aged parents, do not lend them support, are worse than unbelievers he has the testimony of history concerning the conduct of unbelievers on his side.
The Scriptural motivation is that of the Fifth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may go well with thee and that thou mayest live long on the earth.” And also: “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” Those who care for their parents do so with a living faith that is energized by love. Now one who cares not for his parents is a most ungrateful person. He lacks even natural affection.
It is a very, very evil sign when children would cast their parents upon others when they are in a position to give this aid themselves. It is not simply a question of “philanthropy”; it is a matter of showing piety, reverence, godliness rooted in the Mystery of godliness that is great. And this is something which must be “learned”! So easily we bring our parents to “institutions.” It is a tragic thing that a mother can pour out her life for eleven children and many grandchildren, and that these all cannot take care of her when she is old and gray. It is most unchristian! O, the blessedness of standing next to the coffin of the deceased parents as a child and be able to say: I have no regrets; I have honored my parents in their life, and now in a good conscience I bury them in the same hope of the resurrection in which they lived. On the other hand, all the hot tears of remorse, because of neglect, cannot atone for the lack of “piety” shown to parents!
Only the latter is well-pleasing before God. Writes Paul: “For this is well-pleasing to God.” The term well-pleasing harks back to the idea of the sacrifice upon the altar of consecration. It means that such conduct is life consecrated to, God. It is placed upon God’s altar and God accepts it. That Paul writes “before God” implies that this conduct is performed before the face of Him before whom all things are open and naked; before Him who searches and tries the hearts.
No work of sinful philanthropy, humanistic good works as are performed by unregenerate sinners is acceptable to God. The “Good That Sinners Do” is a title of a book written many years ago by a Christian Reformed minister. The Lodge cares for the “brothers,” and engages in erecting children’s hospitals. But it is not acceptable to God. It does not proceed from faith, is not according to God’s law and unto God’s glory. They sin grievously in their philanthropy. It is a stench in God’s holy nostrils. They do not put God’s saints to shame. They out-do those who “deny the faith” to be sure, but they do not out-do the saints who walk in faith. They do not at all compare!!
Let the “Common Grace” enthusiasts, silly doves that they are, take notice! Let them not manipulate their glib clichÃ©s. Go to now all you who parrot others in alleging that the denial of “Common Grace” rests upon rationalistic principle. Read the Bible if it is not a closed book to you and see which works are acceptable to God, and have the sanctified confession that glories alone in the Mystery of godliness as the fountain of all godliness. Then will you in glad and joyful confession be acceptable in your “piety” shown and not in the millions given in “glittering sins,” as saith Augustine.
Meanwhile let us “keep on learning” to show piety. And let us admonish thus to walk in practical godliness, in the “charity” which begins at home. For if one cannot do this “in his own household” he cannot do it elsewhere. God is not mocked.
Only then shall widows and those who support them be without reproach in the world and acceptable to God!
Only those who thus care for their parents, showing piety, shall be free from sin, and do not “deny” the faith; such walk in the ordinances of God as they were from the beginning. Of this the most holy has but a small beginning. And if the righteous are hardly saved, where will sinners appear and those who teach men to believe that they are righteous when they are but white-washed sepulchers?