Yesterday's post was about God's provision for a widow. Today's post is going to expand on that and also focus on caring not only for orphans, but more broadly for the most wounded among us.
In his letter James, the half-brother of Jesus, exhorts us to care for widows and orphans, flatly stating that this is one half of the purest form of religion, a startling statement. Take a look:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27 (NIV)
Who is a widow in our society? An orphan? A couple of situations happened to me yesterday that brought this passage to mind.
I had kind of a crazy day. Most of it was spent getting ready for a banquet, held last night, to benefit the Peruvian orphanage our church supports. The orphanage is a 501c3 called "Village of the Children" cachoraorphanage.com, and is located in the rugged, beautiful mountains near Cachora, Peru. God blessed these efforts by many in our church, and over $10,000 was raised last night. All the glory goes to Him!
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1 (NIV)
In my running around, I had a brief conversation with a woman in her 30s, who works 3 part-time jobs to support her 3 children. She was lamenting the lack of moral support she receives. There are times I don't think well on my feet; I should have invited her to my church, which has some resources for her. But, I let that opportunity slip by because I was too wrapped up in my own agenda for the afternoon. It should have occurred to me, but didn't. I confess this, to my shame. That woman does not have a husband, and you could argue that she brought her circumstances upon herself. But, whether that is true or not - - and I don't know --- I tell you that the word of God does not discriminate on that point. God does not tell us to judge people for their pasts. He tells us to rescue those who are perishing.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to slaughter.
Oh, hold them back!
Pretty clear, isn't it? When we fail to help those who need help, we are failing to hear and heed the call of Christ. Has God put any widows or orphans into your path?
There aren't many orphanages in the USA, are there? There's a good reason for that: many mothers in our country choose to kill their children before they are born. So, in my mind, those unborn children whose lives are at risk are "orphans". How much more is that unborn child an orphan because he or she is "unwanted", abandoned by his or her parents? How much more in "distress" (as James calls it) can a person be than for his/her life to be in danger? And, those women (and men) who make (or affirm) those death decisions, afterward they are "the walking wounded".
Deliver those who are being taken away to death...
Beloved, I mention these examples to get you praying about how you can use your time, talents and resources to "look after" our fellow humans whom Jesus calls in Matthew 25:40 "the least of these", those who are in spiritual bondage and physical peril. Too often, we sanctimoniously judge them, refusing to help because "they brought this on themselves." That is what I prayed over my own church (my brothers and sisters in faith) and my own heart this morning - - - that we would sidestep the pit of judgment and spring even more into action to share Jesus through our individual time, talents and resources. Honestly, our church should have raised more than 4 times what was raised last night for the orphan ministry we claim to support. That statement will offend some; but, it is true. Our church is filled with Christians who have been materially and spiritually blessed. Even so, we often spend our time, talents and money on things which do not have eternal significance, which do not advance Christ's kingdom.
The latter half of James 1:27 tells us the second half of "pure religion" - - - it's not a perfume or a brand of jeans - - - it is to keep oneself unblemished, untarnished from the filth of this world and its worldview. When we hoard the gifts we have been given (material or spiritual), then we are falling right into this world's "Me! Me! Me!" philosophy. We are allowing ourselves to get big, old grease spots on our hearts. And, our Savior is grieved.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Father God, I missed seeing a tree yesterday because my eyes were too much on the forest. Please open my eyes and open the eyes of your people to the extreme hardships of those around us. May we respond as Jesus would, and did, and does. In His name I pray, amen.