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DEAR Raphael and Namukolo,
My wife and I were married for a period of six years before she died in a tragic car accident 15 months ago. Whilst she was still with us, we used to support her siblings who are still in school since her father died many years ago and her mother could not manage to support the children. My question is, as I plan to move on in life and find another partner to settle down, how should I relate to my late wife’s relatives who still need financial support? Should I continue supporting them? Does the death of a spouse dissolve all relationships contracted while they were alive? And what sort of response should I expect from my future wife if I choose to continue supporting my late wife’s relatives? CX.
Receive our sincere condolences on the tragic loss of your wife. It is not a small matter to lose a spouse so unexpectedly at the prime of their lives. We pray that you will seek wisdom from the Lord God to assist you to make the right decision as you seek to settle down in a fresh marriage later on.
With respect to your question, let us start by finding out what death does to a marriage relationship as taught in the scriptures. Romans 7:2: “for a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:39, a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
The marriage relationship is dissolved by the death of a spouse living the surviving partner free to enter into another marriage.
What then are the implications of all this on the relationships and obligations entered into by virtue of being married to your now deceased partner? Should you just walk away from them and forget about them and concentrate on the new relationships you will enter into?
No, certain obligations will still need to be honoured. The roles, of supporting your wife’s siblings, which you and your late wife entered into are parental in nature. Given the situation that they find themselves in of having no one to support them, you became their parents. This parental role does not come to an end simply because one of the parents has passed away. The surviving spouse needs to continue discharging this parental role up to completion. Completion here means the children becoming independent adults capable of taking care of themselves.
God is very particular about the need for us to take care of the vulnerable in our societies. He is the father to the fatherless. Deuteronomy 10:18 ESV, he executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
For this reason, he takes exception to us mistreating the vulnerable in our society.
Exodus 22:22-23 ESV, you shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. (23), if you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.
And in fulfilling your obligations, you will need to carefully communicate to your future partner the extent of your obligations and the possible time frame. You need to ensure that you are totally agreed on this matter to avoid misunderstandings arising later on. Nothing should be assumed.
Such parental obligations bring another responsibility on marrieds. Supporting of our relatives should be done transparently and by mutual agreement between the couple. It should never be carried out secretly as this would disadvantage the relatives receiving the support once their own dies. There will be no continuity of support as the other partner would be in the dark. Couples should develop, towards each other’s relations, the attitude expressed by Ruth towards her mother-in-law in Ruth 1:16, but Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
So, we are urging you to continue supporting your wife’s relatives. In addition to financial support, ensure that you also do a lot of parenting to ensure they behave responsibly and they do not squander this golden opportunity given to them to complete their studies. They need to understand that your parenting responsibilities are not open-ended. They are for a reason and for a season.
Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten. (iheartsquote)
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