A Universal Truth
Everyone loves to receive gifts. Some appreciate them more than others, but most people—whether they feel particularly loved by gifts or not—appreciate the sentiment of the gift from the giver. A gift says, “I love and appreciate you,” grounded in the thoughtfulness and intentionality of the whole process. In the same way, giving a gift to a widow can be a particularly encouraging gesture. Widows were wives, and many of them are mothers and grandmothers. It is safe to say that many of them made sacrificial efforts to give gifts to the ones to whom they sought to communicate the most love. They know the level of thoughtfulness and effort required to give a gift that is meaningful to a particular person.
A widow, just like other specific people in your life, is uniquely encouraged by gifts that speak to a certain need she may have. For the widow, a needed gift, a consumable gift, or a sentimental gift are some of the most significant gifts she can receive that often uniquely minister to her. Additionally deacons in the local church can lead in the gathering and distribution of these gifts to meet these needs, similar to the men set apart in the early church to meet the physical needs of widows (Acts 6:1–7).
A Needed Gift
Have you ever heard someone say, “I need that newest iPhone,” or, “I need that movie as soon as it comes out on Blu-ray.” Some have actually convinced themselves these are things they truly needed. Obviously, those are wants camouflaged as needs and are not the gifts to which I am referring. A needed gift is something that would help meet a basic requirement that a widow has in order to live out her daily life. For example, we have an international refugee who is a widow with several children in our congregation. She is not concerned with the latest iPhone but with what her children will eat for that day. She is not concerned with what movies are being released but with whether or not she will be evicted from her apartment. These kinds of widows have many needs that a pastor can lead his church to help provide. Whether it is food, toiletries, money, or clothes, a gift that meets an immediate need for a widow is a very biblical way to serve her and can act as a great encouragement to her as she sees God’s provision come through his church.
The colder weather of winter poses greater challenges for the elderly widows. These greater needs come in two forms. The first is increased outdoor upkeep on their property that most elderly widows are physically unable to do. The second is the long, dark, cold nights that can heighten the tendency to depression and prolong feelings of loneliness. Here are some practical ways to provide for the physical needs of widows, particularly as the weather gets cold:
- rake leaves;
- clean gutters;
- shovel snow from the driveways;
- provide rides to and from church or the doctor;
- change light bulbs; or
- just go and fix something in their home.
These are all wonderful ways to meet the physical needs of elderly widows. Those who can pull this off without them knowing it give a particularly sweet gift.
An Edible Gift
On the other side of this coin, there are some widows who have lived a long time and have no financial or physical needs. A husband was wise with his money before he died and made sure his wife would be taken care of. Additionally, there are some elderly widows’ homes that have so many knickknacks that the last thing you want to bring is another one to crowd the shelf. Instead, make something that she can eat or drink. Do some research and find out what goodies she used to make and take to all the shut-ins in the church before she was unable to get out anymore. Find out what her favorite coffee or tea is and wrap it up with a nice bow and personally deliver it to her. One Christmas, my wife made special chocolates with my young children, and they all went to deliver some to each of the elderly widows in our congregation. Just because a widow may not have immediate daily physical needs doesn’t mean there are no other ways to brighten her day and remind her she is not forgotten.
A Sentimental Gift
The most meaningful gifts I receive are not the most expensive or the latest gadget but the ones that are made just for me. In my family, the most meaningful gifts I receive are the cards my young children make me or the thoughtful handwritten cards from my wife. The gifts that truly communicate thoughtfulness are the most meaningful. Widows are no different. In fact, I would say this is even more true for the widow who desires to be known, heard, and acknowledged more than having any trinket to go on the shelf. One of the best ways to give a gift like this is to find out what kinds of sweet, sentimental gifts a widow’s husband used to give her, and then give something similar.
Ministering grace to a widow with a gift is not just about the gift but the message communicated to the widow by the gift.
In some contexts, this might be more appropriate to receive from another lady in the church or the pastor’s wife. These gifts are the ones that can often lift the spirits of a grieving widow, as they not only communicate a thoughtfulness commonly absent in her life but they remind her of the way her husband used to love her and they give her a brief moment to feel that love once more. Ministering grace to a widow with a gift is not just about the gift but the message communicated to the widow by the gift. Do the work to find out what physical needs are there, bake some goodies like she used to bake, or simply have your children make a card that says you appreciate her. It is in those moments when a gift is used by God in ways you cannot know or anticipate that it acts as a simple reminder to a widow that she is not forgotten.
This article is adapted from Caring for Widows: Ministering God’s Grace by Brian Croft and Austin Walker.