Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. [1 Timothy 5:3 (NLT)]
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. [Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)]
In Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, there is a funny scene in which Jacqueline, a recently divorced out-of-touch wealthy socialite, complains that her husband got their maid in the divorce. “I’ve been in this dress for two days because there’s no one here to unzip it. I took a shower in it and now it’s rusted shut.” I thought of her grievance as I struggled to get dressed last night. Needing my husband’s assistance, I joked that I’ll have to keep him around since we don’t have a maid.
I then thought about the widows and divorcees on our street who have no one to zip and unzip or hook and unhook all of those closures on the back of their clothing. How do they cope? Do they discard a major part of their wardrobe when they lose their spouse? Do they arrive at work or parties partially dressed? While that’s a possibility, what about when they get home? Do they wake their neighbors at midnight or, like Jacqueline, sleep in their attire? Dogs and cats are a great comfort but, without opposable thumbs, they aren’t much good at zippers or buttons.
The Bible is very clear about caring for widows. Granted, the plight of a widow thousands of years ago was far worse than today. It was a man-ruled world, women had minimal inheritance rights, and honorable employment wasn‘t readily available. Yet, today one in three women still live in poverty or at the brink of it, so there are economic issues to address. It is more than just a person’s economic status, however, that should concern us when we think of people who’ve lost a spouse, whether through death or divorce.
As I walk through the park each Sunday taking photos before church, I am struck by the number of people (both men and women) who used to be part of a pair and now are alone. I am painfully aware that one half of every couple eventually will be widowed. There are many men whose experience in the kitchen consists of making a PB&J or opening a bag of chips and a tub of dip. There are some men who ran corporations but never ran the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or vacuum. There are women whose husbands did all the driving, who’ve never handled the finances or done the taxes, and never eaten out alone or taken a trip by themselves. There are many who will sit alone at their table tonight, who have no one to complain to when customer service doesn’t serve, who have no one to laugh with at the funny YouTube video, who have no one with whom to share their deepest secrets, and have no one with whom to walk while holding hands. I’ve been part of a couple for nearly half a century. Believe me, if my husband goes before me, I will miss him for far more than his assistance with zippers and hooks.
God’s tender concern for the bereaved is declared through all of Scripture. While today’s widowed may not necessarily need our legal and economic protection the way they did in days of old, they still need our love and compassion. The command to care for the widowed is as valid today as it was centuries ago. As we gather with family over the holidays, let us not forget those without family, whether men or women, single, widowed or divorced. May we keep them in our prayers but, more important, let’s reach out our hands in friendship and love (and maybe with an offer to help with difficult zippers!)