In Israel there was no welfare grant or help from the government for widows. You were financially destitute and reliant on the goodness of others. Here are some verses to show us how widows were cared for:
Deuteronomy 24:19 "When you gather your crops and fail to bring in some of the grain that you have cut, do not go back for it; it is to be left for the foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do." GNB
Deuteronomy 24:20 "When you have picked your olives once, do not go back and get those that are left; they are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows." GNB
Deuteronomy 24:21 "When you have gathered your grapes once, do not go back over the vines a second time; the grapes that are left are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows." GNB
Deuteronomy 26:12 "Every third year give the tithe---a tenth of your crops---to the Levites, the foreigners, the orphans, and the widows, so that in every community they will have all they need to eat." GNB
So, if you were a widow you were alone. And if people did not leave you some food in their fields and orchards you would starve.
The widow and Elijah
Israel is going through a severe famine. What happens in famine? The food that she would have been able to collect ran out. God tests your faith when times are hard, will you look to Him only? or will you compromise?
God instructed the widow to care for the prophet, even though she only had 1 last meal left. God wanted her everything, and when she gave it to Him - He blessed her, He did not let her die of starvation (1 Kings 17:9-16).
The widow and Elisha
The widow inherits her husbands debts and her sons are about to be sold as slaves to repay that debt. Being reliant on the kindness of others meant that she could not repay her late husbands debts. (2 Kings 4:1-7).
Isaac sows in a time of famine
"Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy." ESV
See the movie, “Faith like potatoes”, God often works in ways that boggle our minds. Sowing in a time of famine is as good as throwing away your seed, under normal circumstances. But God blesses Isaac.
We need to become seed conscious
"1 Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. 2 Don't hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night. 3 When the clouds are full of water, it rains. When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls. 4 Don't sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don't stare at the clouds. Get on with your life. 5 Just as you'll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does." MSG