Helping Widows and Orphans
1 One of the requirements of true worship is “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.” (Jas. 1:27) In the many congregations of Jehovah’s people there are literal widows and orphans who are in need of loving attention such as is encouraged by the disciple James. But there are also others in the congregations who are in need of loving consideration and help.
2 The problems faced by these persons differ considerably. Some widows may have to work secularly while at the same time caring for a home and providing help and guidance to their children. The resulting schedule may be so demanding that it leaves these sisters totally exhausted in the evening. Other widows may be advanced in age and may be facing serious health and financial problems. Still others, though enjoying comparatively good health and financial security, may find that they are lonely and depressed. Sisters with unbelieving mates may experience discouragement because of being unable to have spiritual fellowship with their husbands. Nevertheless, they should endeavor to win their husbands by godly conduct. (1 Pet. 3:1, 2) As for orphaned children, many keenly sense the absence of a parent. Especially teen-age boys may have difficulty discussing personal problems with their mother. In cases where the father is an unbeliever, children may be given unscriptural advice, face ridicule and perhaps even mistreatment, but they should render due obedience.—Eph. 6:1-3.
HOW WE CAN HELP THEM
3 Clearly, orphans and widows, among others in our midst, especially need encouragement and upbuilding. For any of us to be a source of encouragement or help to all these needy ones, we need to know what their situation is. Since they do not openly discuss their problems and inmost feelings with the entire congregation, how might we determine what aid and encouragement would be appreciated? This usually cannot be done by asking directly: “Is there anything I can do for you? Do you need anything?” Nevertheless, we can learn a great deal about their true situation from observation and by listening to their casual remarks. For example, facial expressions and evidence of fatigue can tell us much. The more we converse with them at the Kingdom Hall, while with them when sharing in field service, or in their home or ours, the better acquainted we will become with their real needs. We should, of course, avoid prying into their affairs.
4 After ascertaining areas where help and encouragement are needed and would be appreciated, we should follow through to the extent possible. It may be a matter of assisting with home cleaning, washing or shopping. Sometimes material aid in the form of money, clothing or food, may be appropriate. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:3-10; 1 John 3:17, 18.) It could be very encouraging for persons in need to be invited to accompany you in the Bible study activity or on return visits, as well as in other field service activities. Then, too, including them in wholesome social activities may be beneficial in filling their need for companionship.—Luke 14:12-14.
5 Of course, a person must exercise care that he does not force his attention on someone who may not particularly be drawn to him. When a brother really has concern for a boy in an unfortunate circumstance and shows this by his genuine warmth and interest, the boy usually will respond in time. The relationship will develop naturally, perhaps without either the brother or the youngster having to say anything about it. For example, they may really come to enjoy working in the field service together and interchanging thoughts and experiences. While the brother can never actually fill the role of the boy’s father, he can be a confidential friend. Because of the age difference, he may be like a father, but rightly realizes that he is more like an older brother.
6 Just how much a person can do is, of course, governed by circumstances. A single brother, for example, may be limited in what he could do to assist a widow and her children so as not to give any wrong impressions. On the other hand, such widows should not interpret attention given to their children as evidence of interest in them as a possible marriage mate. Often it is best for sisters to assist widows or for married couples to do so together. Moreover, if any aid is given to children unaccompanied by parents, we should take into consideration the feelings of living parents and not undermine parental influence and direction.
7 As in the case of all other members of the congregation, we can be a source of encouragement to orphans and widows and other afflicted ones if we are alert to their needs and respond to these to the extent our circumstances allow. It is really a matter of heeding the admonition of the apostle Peter: “Have intense love for one another.”—1 Pet. 4:8.