Specific Text - 1 Timothy 5:3-10
It's not surprising that the Bible instructs people to help meet the physical needs of widows. Elderly ladies who husbands have died often have little or no way to produce income themselves, and therefore need help from others. This was even more the case when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. The church has a huge responsibility to care for people who can not care for themselves (Paul talks about widows here, but the principle extends to all who are needy). The church has always made charity work a priority. This is why we often take benevolence offerings.
What's surprising is how strict these instructions are. Before the church is obligated to step in and help, family members are expected to rise up and support their relatives. Look at how stark the consequences are in v8: to deny your needy relatives is like denying your faith and makes you worse than an unbeliever! That's a big deal!
Paul also lays out an expectation here that needy people must make every effort to care for themselves before turning to the church for charity. In v9, it indicates that widows under the age of 60 must fend for themselves. Sixty doesn't seem very old in our day, but this was a pretty old, feeble person back then, yet even then a 59 year old needed to be working to earn their daily bread.
Paul had such strict instruction because he knew if churches were inundated with people seeking help who really didn't need it, the truly poor and needy people would be ignored. We can not let this happen. We must constantly be on the lookout for the welfare of all people in the church, and going the extra mile to help them in their need.
Paul has even more qualifications for those who deserve assistance in v10: they must have demonstrated a lifetime of giving themselves. We often say that you should give without expectations or strings attached, and that's true, but it's also true that when you help others, you're also investing in your own care when someday you need to rely on others for your daily needs.
Prayer For The Day - Dear Father, I so easily take for granted that all of my physical needs are so well met. You have given me so much. Help me to be truly thankful for these things. Help me to recognize those who are truly needy - whether their need is physical or spiritual, so that I can share the peace of Jesus that you have helped me experience. Amen.