Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need … The widow who is really in need …the church can help those widows who are really in need … 1 Timothy 5:3, 5 & 16

Three times Paul draws attention to widows “who are really in need.” Widows are helped on the basis of need and the initial responsibility lies with the widow’s family.

This points out a significant difference between the way churches help people and the way government agencies help. Churches are in a position to discern genuine need because people associate with each other outside church services. If someone is in need, others in the church will notice and be prompted to do something about it. Whereas government agencies aim to help everyone equally and have no foolproof way of discerning true need.

Helping people can be a tricky business. On the one hand, we don’t want to neglect those in need. While on the other we don’t want people to become idle and abuse the generosity of others. Paul gives these instructions, “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Yet only a few verses later we are told, “for each of you should carry your own load” (verse 5). A burden is something that weighs us down and we need help with it, while a load is a person’s normal responsibilities.

God places us in a church family so that we can know each other’s load and become aware when something becomes a burden. In a church community, we can find ways of supporting them. God designed the church to be an effective helping agency.