Scripture: But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 1 Tim 5:4 NIV
Observation: Early Christians cared for widows in their midst, but administering this aid proved challenging (see Acts 6:1–7). Timothy is to encourage family members to care for relatives who are widows (1 Tim. 5:4, 8, 16) and to ensure that aid is given to women who are really widows (v. 5). Those who are to be placed on the list of widows approved for aid (taken into the number, v. 9) are to meet certain qualifications. Paul advises against including women less than 60 years of age and prefers that younger women remarry (vv. 9, 14). [Dybdahl, J. L. (Ed.). (2010). Andrews Study Bible Notes (p. 1584). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]
Application: Single parents face a number of challenges. In some cases, single parents need to deal with their own finances and the added financial responsibility of their children in another household. Single parents have to care for their own household entirely on their own. This could include fixing meals, all the household chores, helping with homework, attending parent-teacher meetings, taking their children to the doctor or staying home with a sick child even when that may mean losing income for the day, and so much more.
Today’s text underscores the important role that churches should play in supporting widows with children and grandchildren. That is God’s plan and ideal. But we know that in today’s world it probably rarely happens that way. When single parents consider all these heavy responsibilities, they may like to have a life partner to share in all they have to do. And yet, much research shows that one of the most difficult dynamics is that of blended families or step-parenting homes. Not long ago a lady spoke to us to tell us of the difficult relationship between her husband and her son, who is his step-son. In a blunt way he told her, “I didn’t marry you to become a dad.” How sad that is!
Many single parents, wanting the support of a partner and a parent figure for their children, enter into relationships that end up being more damaging to their children. Children are often exposed to a revolving door of step-parents, toward whom they may develop positive feelings, only to feel abandoned again when those relationships end. Often, many children experience emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their step-parents.
I think even Paul hints that what widows (or single parents) should devote their life to raising their children first, at least until they are adults. He urges single parents to provide for their children the type of atmosphere where they will help them in their spiritual growth, and to put their religious principles into practical use. While it is a difficult road, remaining single is a better arrangement for single parents than bringing other people into their children’s lives, particularly if doing so disrupts the parents’ relationship with their children, and with God.
A Prayer You May Say: Father God, I pray you help and encourage single parents, and may they find in You their Companion and Helper so they may devote their life to helping their children come to know You and serve You.