Hiroshima Day

Today is Hiroshima Day. I remember this because it was also my grandmother’s birthday. I remember the anniversary of her death, too. She died the day I got married.

My grandmother died a widow. And my grandfather effectively died a widower, because my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the last decade of her life.

But enough of the autobiography.

The New Testament gives a quite detailed picture of what a Christian social welfare system would look like. There would be NO government involvement.

I’m no expert on social welfare, but I believe that the economic millstone that is today’s welfare state began in New Zealand with an old age pension introduced in 1898. A widow’s pension (today’s Widow’s Benefit) was introduced in 1911. As one of the country’s earliest social welfare benefits, it would probably be one of the last to go, were New Zealand ever to prosper under a Christian libertarian government.

Here is what the Apostle Paul has to say about the care of widows in the First Epistle to Timothy.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (ESV)

Widows are to be cared for by their children or grandchildren, by their second (or subsequent) husbands, by their wider family or, as a last resort, by the church. Sounds like solid, compassionate common sense to me.

In today’s world, of course, is there any general reason why widows who aren’t truly decrepit can’t get jobs and support themselves? I can’t think of one.

2 thoughts on “Hiroshima Day”

  1. The Widow’s Pension introduced in 1911 would barely resemble today’s Widow’s benefit. It was means and morals-tested in a similar way to the old-age pension. It didn’t provide enough to live on without supplementary work. In an age where most left school after gaining their Proficiency Certificates, children were only supported until 14 – not the 18, and sometimes 19 years of age that today’s benefits cover. Cautionary words about possible unintended consequences came from charitable aid boards of Southland and Otago – parsimonious Scots perhaps – who decided not to supplement the Widow’s pension with private funds;
    “By increasing or supplementing the pension, the Board would not be encouraging thrift….The effect might be to remove the sense of responsibility from the shoulders of young children who would not be so eager to contribute to the support of their mothers.”

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