There are many developments in our national life which must cause every Christian real concern. Whether it be the increasing violence and obscenity in society at large, the attack on the sanctity of life and the Lord’s day by our legislators, or the slide of our national church into apostasy – all these things alarm the true church of God, and rightly so.
However, our adversary, the devil, does not always walk about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5.8). Sometimes he is transformed into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11.14). How do we react when Christians speak of putting their mother’s name down for an old peoples’ home? Are they to be complimented for forethought and concern for the welfare of their mother? Modern society says “yes”. But the apostle Paul says: “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12.2). Well, what is the will of God in this matter? 1 Timothy 5.3-16 lays down very clear guidelines.
The passage begins: “Honour widows that are widows indeed.” It ends: “That it (the church) may relieve them that are widows indeed.” Who are “widows indeed”? Verse 4 indicates that they are those without children or nephews, and verse 5 terms them ‘desolate”. Only such widows are to be the responsibility of the church. Widows with families are clearly shown to be the responsibility of the family.
Why? Paul gives several reasons. Firstly, that piety may be shown at home. Where else should it begin? Secondly, to requite (or
repay) their parents. Don’t they owe their parents anything? Thirdly, because it is good and acceptable before God. What better reason? Fourthly, because to neglect the care of parents is to deny the faith. How terrible! Fifthly, so that the church is free to relieve the “widows indeed”. They need it.
The Scriptures are full of similar teaching. The scribes and Pharisees evidently thought that the commandment “Honour thy Father and thy mother” ceased when the children grew up, but Jesus shows them that this is not so (Matt. 15.3-6).
The account of Joseph’s care for his old father is a beautiful example. “Doth my father yet live?” “Say unto him, come down unto me, tarry not, and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me . . . and there will I nourish thee” (Gen. 45.3,9-11).
Even pagans with their love and care of their old people, put some Christians to shame in this respect, and demonstrate the truth of Romans 2.14-15, “for when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” Some Christians seem to come closer to the Dutch proverb which runs: “It frequently seems easier for one poor father to bring up ten children, than for ten rich children to provide for one poor father.”
All this does not, of course, mean that to put one’s mother into an old peoples’ home is to deny the faith. There are sometimes extenuating factors. The elderly relative might require more nursing care than the family can provide. Accommodation with the Family may be impossible. There may be financial constraints. Old people can be stubborn and refuse offers of assistance, etc.
When such conditions exist, then the best alternative is surely to place such relatives in a Christian home. Christ himself sets us an example here. At the time of His greatest agony he did not forget to care for his widowed mother. Notice that he places her in a Christian home with John, rather than with any of her other children whom we assume from Psalm 69.8 to be unbelievers at that time.
Sometimes there is no Christian home available. Cave Adullam was hardly suitable accommodation for elderly parents, so David was forced to place his parents with the King of Moab while he was there (1 Sam. 22.3,4). It was not a happy solution, but apparently the only option open to David at the time.
It is clear from all this that each case has to be treated on its merits, and each Christian family must handle the matter as before the Lord. We know from the frequent references to widows in Scripture that they are close to His heart. We know that neglect of widows caused the first recorded upset in the Christian church (Acts 5.1t.
Christians often derive great comfort from passages dealing with the forgiveness of our sins, but do we give equal heed to the exhortations which are often found side by side? Isaiah 1.18 has been a comfort to many, but the four words preceeding it read:
“PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW.” “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3.18).