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The Care of Widows (1 Tim. 5:13-16): Implications For Degema People, Rivers State




This research was carried out to closely examine the care of widows (1 Tim. 5:13-16): Implications for Degema people, Rivers state. The New Testament concept of care for widows with reference to its economic benefits and its theological implications in the contemporary time to the church. The purpose was to examine the role of the churches in Degema in the care of widows in the area. The statement of problem is that the study contends that Degema people do not properly care for their widows according to the biblical standard. The methodology used in carrying out the study include exegetical study of the text of 1 Timothy 5: 13-16 and qualitative interview of Degema people to make the study relevant to the context of interpretation. Findings from the study includes such as: the study discovered a lasting principle of social welfare that seems to emerge from the apostolic instruction (1.) the principle of discrimation, there was no general handbook to all widows irrespective of their circumstances. (2.) The principle of dignity that distract the second categories of widows mentioned in the text. The study recommends the following: (1) that churches as family has an obligation to care for the material need of those widows indeed. (2) In the Christian family younger people should be obliged to care for their parents especially widow’s parents. The study was wrapped up with the aim the study carried out.



Background to the Study

Scholars who have undertaken to draw economic lessons from the book of Timothy, have always considered the narrative in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 from various perspectives (Brueggemann, 1982,48). These perspectives include that of social injustice, inequality and economic empowerment of the less privileged. Many others, especially in the West have drawn lessons from the care of widows from the same text, although it is done especially from the economic point of view (Bruegemann, 1982, 52). This narrative points to and underscores some scriptural passages that show the fact that the widows are under God’s special care. From the Old Testament times, Hebrew were commanded to care for the widows and they were rebuked if they do not take care of the widows. (Exod. 22:22; Deut. 14:29; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6). Moreover, these passages portray, the economic focus of the New Testament Church. Responding to a question posed by Julie Wertman on what he had learnt from the Old Testament and the New Testament Church in relation to Justice, Walter Brueggemann (n.d) states that, the Old Testament,represented by the prophets and the New Testament, represented by the church, are largely focused on economic questions; however “I suppose that the way I would transpose that is to say that they are concerned with the way in which the powerful take advantage of the vulnerable”.

One of such vulnerable groups is widows in the society. There is the persistent widespread discrimination against widows in the society that results from mandatory observance of harmful widowhood rituals, interpersonal violence, disinheritance and forceful deprivation of property in marriage, in violation of, and contrary to both what the Bible teaches about the provision of international and regional human rights conventions and domestic laws. Of course Adefemi (2015,2-3) argues that international, regional and domestic laws have not been effective to address the violation of widows’ rights, because the terms in which these laws are expressed are not meaningful at the grass-roots level. He further argues that to ignore the rights of widows in sub-Saharan African countries is to condone the violation of the Basic Human Rights of the most neglected of women. Indeed Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR) proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right”. The problem of widowhood is not peculiar to sub-Saharan Africans, Owen Margaret (1996) recalls argument about widowhood as being painful and traumatic, despite the fact that she lives in the West where there ought to be no legal institutional discrimination against widows. Her experiences as a widow depicts the fact that widows, regardless of their status suffer losses in society.

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This work revisited the often-neglected subject of care for widows in relation to the New Testament Church. This is of utmost concern in sub-Saharan African countries and Nigeria in particular with emphasis on Degema. Issues such as widowhood rituals, disinheritance, interpersonal violence and customary practices such as widow cleansing and widow inheritance, illustrate woman’s inequality within the society and their fight and struggle for substantive gender equality. These issues are of fundamental importance for a number of reasons.

First, the study of women and especially widows as a vital and autonomous force, as well as the treatment of their wealth and woes, is an intrinsic part of the overall social dynamic of every society (Sossous, 2002,11).Second, care for widows therefore improves every society’s productivity, income and economic development and contributes to a better quality of life including a healthier and better nourished population (Jeje, 1995,1).

Third, exploring and examining the conditions in which widows live in many different cultures especially considering the growth of Christianity is necessary because widowhood then is largely unprotected, despite the rate at which the church has evangelized a place like Degema. Statistics show that widows of all ages, background and cultures are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, neglect, cultural, physical, emotional and psychological oppression and abuse (Sossou, 2002,67).The researcher however, turned to the scripture for answers to the plight of widows. He draws spiritual, moral and material resources for the cushioning of the effects of widowhood in Degema from 1 Timothy 5:13-16. The way the early church leaders dealt with the problem of care for widows is worthy of emulation and its application to Degema would bring possible societal transformation.

  • Statement of the Problem

The problem of widowhood is universal. It cuts across continents, countries, nations, and various people group. It is very visible in the Niger Delta and Degema in particular. There are some dehumanizing practices targeted at widows. Christians are not exonerated when it comes to ugly treatment of widowhood. The antagonistic attitude with which the society treat widows is often found among Christians. This is true of Degema people who are predominantly Christians. As one of the Christian elders in Degema (Elder Samuel Eji) comments “the loss of a spouse is in itself a tragedy but to subject the partner to excruciating living conditions, including depriving her of access to certain family inheritance and utilities jeopardizes the coping mechanism of the bereaved”.

Interestingly, there was the problem of care of widows in the New Testament church as exemplified in 1 Timothy 5:14-16. The church in Ephesus addressed the situation in her leaders. The researcher wants to proffer remedies to this dehumanizing treatment to widows in Degema through the lessons that will be drawn from the text of study which is 1 Timothy 5:3-16. Church model serves as an example to the Degema people. However, the problem involves one, the unbiblical practices which are rather dehumanizing when it comes to how widows are treated in Degema. Two, the involvement of Christians in such traditional practices is worrisome over the depth of Christianity in Degema land. This raises the questions of the extent the Gospel has impacted on the culture and tradition of Degema people. This is the basis of this research.

Purpose of Study

The main purpose of this research project is to consider Care of Widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16:Implication to the people of Degema. The specific objectives include:

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  1. To establish issues of widow treatment in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.
  2. To investigate care of widows in Degema.
  3. To investigate the negative care of widows in Degema.
  4. To give recommendations

This researcher concurs with Speckman’s (2001,4-5). Three basic reasons for focusing on the Bible in respect to issues dealing with human development and transformation, especially in present day Africa.First, the Bible’s ‘sound theological rational’ legitimates and gives significance to a contextual study.

Research Methodology

In achieving this study the researcher employed the following methodology.

Post-colonial criticism and social scientific biblical method which enabled the researcher reach out to qualitative interviews.The other research methodology employed by the researcher is the social-scientific Bible methodology. This is simply a biblical methodology that serves as a vehicle to carry a biblical scholar to other disciplines and fields of study to borrow especially their research methodology among other things. Houser(2004,3-4) identified three fundamentals that need to be established when using and applying this method. First, quoting Elliot (1993,7) he writes in relation to its definition “socio- scientific criticism of the Bible is that phase of the exegetical task which analyzes the social and cultural dimensions of the text and its environmental context through utilization of the perspectives, theory, models and research of social sciences. Second, considering its goal, he also quoted Elliot (1993,63) as saying “coming to an understanding of a text, its genre, content, structures, meaning and rhetorical strategy as a vehicle of meaning, persuasive discourse in its original historical, social and cultural context and as a medium of social interaction”. The third and final fundamental of socio-scientific criticism, according to Houser (el-et) concerning the different avenues through which data for this methodology is obtained. This method includes an assortment of different fields of study that are comprised for the makeup of this research”. (Houser 2004,3-4).Thus, the socio-scientific method of Biblical study gives the researcher the impetus to borrow the qualitative interviews method to accomplish the task of achieving his objectives in this research. The qualitative interview enables the researcher to meet those interviewed one on one and to ask each the questions he already prepared for this purpose. This is a suitable technique for data

collection especially as it helps him deal with smaller group as his population sample size. Randomly selected 20 persons from Degema which include 8 women and 12 men for the purpose of interview is proposed for this research. Second, because religion is a vital tool for social transformation (cf. Vivian 1965,88) and since the Bible constitutes the most predominantly available ecumenical faith resource used by majority of people in Africa particularly Degema people; it makes sense to use it as the main resources for a study into care of widows in Degema.

Third, as Mugambi also affirms “deep in the heart, the African Christian remains an African” (2001,16); that is, the holistic approach to life predominates and therefore wholeness of life is essentially the ordinary person’s biblical interpretative tool. Thus, this research thesis purposefully is set to use the Bible to answer the question of inequality and dehumanization in the area of care of widows evidenced in Degema culture. The ages of those sample size range from 20 years to 70 years, most of whom are educated at least to secondary school level. The sample of the question would be attached as Appendix to this work. However, the researcher makes use of their responses in the body of this research work.

Scope of Study

The study is limited to the care of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. Although references are made to other New Testament passages and Jesus’ model.This work also uses the Old Testament Jewish background as the foundation of the practice in1 Timothy 5:3-16.  He uses the post-colonial biblical method strictly as a tool for reading the text so as to make this relevant to Africans, Degema, scholars, communities and ministers.

Limitation to The Study

the researcher has limited the topic within the text of  1Tim 5-14-16, but not out of cognizance the verse 3-13 are relevant to the study of the context. There were no available cultural and traditional documents on which the researcher could lay hand upon. Some of the elders during the period under research have died, who would have supplied more accurate data to the author of this work. Some of the oral interviewees might have forgotten facts about the tradition. The people interviewed are within the age bracket of 20-60 years, the absence of this limitation would have made the work more comprehensive.

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Significance of the Study

The importance of this is that it will facilitate a down to earth teaching that can help ordinary Degema Christians to grapple earnestly with the issue of integrating faith and daily life activities in their culture. There is the adage in Degema that says “a-papa jen ibi ya jen ba-a” that is to say, they compare a man to liken to a breakable groundnut, they assume that when a man cannot meet up his responsibilities, he can be changed or pick another one. Moreover, the findings will be beneficial to the church, policy makers, civil society and other non-governmental organizations, and even the Degema culture.

The Church: The result of this study will help the church in Degema model her caring programme after that shown in the Bible especially Acts 6:1-3. It will help her with materials for sermons, Bible studies and seminars on ways of both caring and empowering widows. It also draws the attention of the church to the plight of widows and the need to care for them.

Policy Makers: The result of this study will boost the already existing legal framework for the care of the vulnerable especially widows. It would also propel the government to device means of enforcing existing laws that guarantee the rights of women especially widows.

Civil Societies and Non-Governmental Organization: The result of this study will strengthen the hands of those societies and organizations who are already involved in empowering widows. It affords them the opportunity to get the best practices as shown especially in Acts 6:1-3.

Definition of key terms

It is necessary to define the key terms that is used in this work, that will give a clearer purpose and a better understanding the usage of terms in the work. Therefore, the following terms that make up the research area of study and other related words to the study should be defined.


There are numerous definitions on the word “care” from the different disciplines of study. Hence, the word care will be defined from two aspects that seem to have or agree in their ideas.

From the theological point of view, care can be defined as the process of caring for somebody or something in a way of providing the needs of the health and protecting Horn by (2005; 213) while John and MacArthur (2003:82) define caring from the economical empowerment, hence looking at the both definition the researcher concludes that care is a vital dimension which includes the need for good health, protection and offers economic empowerment.


A widow, the researcher defined as a married woman whose husband has died and who remains unmarried even though there also women who did not marry but Co-habit with a man and have children, after which the man died later they are also widows but can be classified under what the researcher called illegal widows.


The possible effect of an action the aftermath effect of an action or behaviour.


The word Degema in its original language is known and called Ude-ka ma it is called Degema today by colonial masters.

Pages:  96

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF

Chapters: 1-5

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References

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