5She who is really a widow He expresses his meaning more clearly than before; for he shews that they are really widows who are solitary and have no children. He says that such persons hope in God Not that this is done by all, or by them alone; for we may see many widows that are childless, and that have no relatives whatever, who nevertheless are haughty and insolent, and altogether ungodly both in heart and in life. On the other hand, then, are those who have many children, and who are not prevented from having their hope placed in God; such as Job and Jacob and David. But for this, (
πολυτεκνία) a multitude of children would be a curse, whereas Scripture always reckons it among the remarkable blessings of God. But Paul says here that widows “ in God,” in the same manner as he elsewhere writes, that the unmarried study only to please God, because their affections are not divided like those of married persons. (1Co_7:32.) The meaning therefore is, that they have nothing to disturb their thoughts, from looking to God alone; because they find nothing in the world on which they can rely. By this argument he commends them; for, when human aid and every refuge fails them, it is the duty of the Church to stretch forth her hand to render assistance; and thus the condition of the widow, who is childless and desolate, implores the aid of the pastor.
Continueth in prayers. This is the second ground of commendation, that they continually devote themselves to prayer. Hence it follows, that they ought to be relieved and supported at the expense of the Church. At the same time, by these two marks he distinguishes between the worthy and the unworthy; for these words are of the same import as if he enjoined that they only shall be received who look for no aid from men, but rely on God alone, and, laying aside other cares and employments, are earnestly devoted to prayer; and that others are ill qualified and of no advantage to the Church. Again, this constancy in prayer demands freedom from other cares; for they who are occupied with the government of a family have less freedom and leisure. We are all, indeed, commanded to pray continually; but it ought to be considered what is demanded by every person’ condition, when, in order to pray, retirement and exemption from all other cares are demanded.
What Paul praises in widows, Luke (Luk_2:36) asserts as to Anna, the daughter of Phanuel; but the same thing would not apply to all, on account of the diversity in their manner of life. There will be foolish women — apes, and not imitators, of Anna — who will run from altar to altar, and will do nothing but sigh and mutter till noon. On this presence, they will rid themselves of all domestic affairs; and, having returned home, if they do not find everything arranged to their wish, they will disturb the whole family by outrageous cries, and will sometimes proceed to blows. Let us therefore remember that there are good reasons why it is the peculiar privilege of those who are widows and childless, to have leisure for praying by night and by day; because they are free from lawful hindrances, which would not permit those who govern a family to do the same.
And yet this passage lends no countenance to monks or nuns, who sell their mutterings or their loud noises for the sake of leading an easy and idle life. Such were anciently the Euchites or Psallians; for monks and Popish priests differ in no respect, except that the former, by continually praying, thought that none but themselves were pious and holy, while the latter, with inferior industry, imagined that they sanctify both themselves and others. Paul had no thought of anything of this sort, but only intended to shew how much more freely they may have leisure for prayer who have nothing else to disturb them.