“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Timothy 5:5).
This portion of Scripture offers a list of identifying characteristics that defined a widow who was eligible for church assistance. First, a qualifying widow had to be someone who was “left alone.” In other words, she had to be someone with limited financial resources and had no family members available to help.
The next defining quality was that she had to be someone who “trusts in God.” One New Testament scholar explains the concept of “trust” as it appears within this passage…
“It speaks here of a widow who has as a habit of life set her hope upon God with the result that the hope has become permanently fixed as a settled and immovable trust. One could translate, ‘has directed her hope at God,’ or, ‘has her hope settled permanently on God.'” (1)
Another source adds…
“Genuine poverty often drove widows to exemplary lives of prayer and faithful dependence upon God. For such widows, the church is to be the visible hand of God in providing for needs.” (2)
This was followed by “continues in supplications and prayers night and day.” We might find the best illustration of this attribute in the example of a prophetess named Anna and her encounter with the infant Jesus…
“Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).
It was that kind of example that led one commentator to make the following observation concerning such widows: “With the hardships and perhaps tragedies she has faced, she can have a heart for others and truly intercede on their behalf. Only eternity will reveal the enormous importance godly widows have played in the ministries of God around the world.” (3)
However, there was another type of widow who served to contrast the example given to us here in 1 Timothy 5:5. That sort of widow is identified in the following verse: “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” We’ll examine this unusual description in greater detail next.
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Timothy 5:5-7] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2161). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(3) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2503). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.