In 1 Timothy, chapter 5, Paul has two main themes. First, he instructs Timothy how widows are to be treated. John MacArthur gives us an understanding of the Greek word “widow”.
The English word widow describes a woman whose husband is dead. The Greek word chēra (“widow”) includes that meaning, but is not limited to it. It is an adjective used as a noun, and means “bereft,” “robbed,” “having suffered loss,” or “left alone.” The word does not speak of how a woman was left alone, it merely describes the situation. It is broad enough to encompass those who lost their husbands through death, desertion, divorce, or imprisonment. It could even encompass those cases where a polygamist came to Christ and sent away his extra wives (William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 105).3