The meanings of these two words are the same today as they were then. The orphan is one who is ‘fatherless’. James 1:27 tells us, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (NASB). We also have the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

James 1:27 also speaks of widows. This literally refers to women who have lost their husbands. Let’s consider the words of 1 Timothy 5:3-4, “Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” The word ‘honor’ in this case refers to ‘charitable sustenance’ or financial support for the widows in the family. In this portion, the Apostle Paul is speaking to the local church and its responsibility to their widows. In verse 3, he mentions those who are ‘widows indeed’. This seems to indicate those widows who have no one to support them.

We go on to read in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, “A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.” The local church would not take on the responsibility of supporting a ‘widow indeed’ if she was younger than 60 and if she had not manifested the love of Christ to others.

It is right that if there is a widow in the family, the family has first responsibility to make sure they meet the financial needs of the widow. Perhaps with the existence of Social Security and Medicare today, the need to support the widows is not so pronounced, STILL the responsibility to meet the needs (financial, emotional, etc.) of the widows falls upon the family. We read in verse 16 of our chapter, “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.”

Let’s end this meditation by considering 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It would be such a shame for a man to allow a widow in his family to have to rely upon others for her care, while he refuses to financially support her. Even the infidels (the unsaved, the pagans) would take care of their own. For believers to refuse to do that would be a disgrace for them. (306.7)