ďPure and undefiled religion in the sight of the Lord is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).Ē Typically we are pretty good at discussing this last point. We understand what it means to not be spotted by the world. We spend hours talking about the sins of the flesh. We spend entire classes, quarters, etc talking about the different things we can do to make certain that we are not conformed to the world but transformed (Rom. 12:1-2). We talk about different tools that enable us to stand firm when we are tempted. Each Lordís Day we talk about and remember the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that enabled us to be spotless in the 1st place. While this is all good and should be done, we often neglect the rest of the passage. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God is not just keeping us from the sins of the world. It is not about making certain that we worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). It is about visiting those in distress, specifically those that could be identified as widows and orphans. But what does this mean? If I want to have pure and undefiled religion I must not only be certain that I understand what this means, but I also need to be certain that I am doing it!
We could take this passage very literally. A widow of course is a person who has lost their husband. The NT is filled with passages that showed the care of widows to be a big part of the Christians life. We can see in Acts 6 that there were certain widows, namely the Hellenistic widows, that were not being properly cared for so the church appointed certain men, of whom Stephan and Phillip, to meet these needs. In I Tim 6 Paul gave Timothy specific instructions concerning the care for widows and how individual Christians who have widows in their families really ought to be the ones taking care of them so that the church would not be burdened. Either way, the widows were supposed to be cared for, provided for and looked after. An orphan of course is a person who has no mother or father. In a time when disease, famine, and war took the lives of many, it was not uncommon for children to end up stranded without anyone to provide for them. Christians have the duty to aid such children. The phrase ďvisit them in their distressí means a whole let more than just showing up and checking on them. It literally means to examine or inspect with the hopes of improving a situation, or simply to care for a person.
We could also take this passage symbolically. What if the widows and orphans simply represent those in need? In NT times there was not a needier group of people than widows and orphans. In a world where woman were hardly permitted to own property, especially among the Jews and in a world where there were no government agencies to take care of fatherless children these persons were left to rely upon the kindness of others to meet their daily needs. In Christís lesson on preparation he pointed out that it was not just the widows and orphans that should be cared for. Those that were hungry should be fed, those thirsty should be given a drink, those naked, clothed, those in sick or prison ought to be visited (Matt. 25:37-40). The reality is, God expects us to be the good Samaritan. He doesnít want us to wait to determine if a person is a widow indeed before we are moved with compassion to help. Perhaps we need to give up some money. Perhaps we need to give some blood and sweat. Perhaps we need to give an ear, or a shoulder to cry upon. Or maybe a bedroom in our house to one with nowhere else to stayÖ even if a stranger. (See Matt. 25:38).
With the holiday season upon us and the cold days of winter finally setting in, the needy are going to be more noticeable. If we know someone that is in need why wait to help? There are children in need of coats. Sure, they parents should buy it for them, but that isnít the point. Do you have enough compassion for said child to give them a coat to keep warm? I know that there were many this past Thursday that spent the holiday hungry and alone. Let us not make that same mistake the next holiday. If we know someone without anywhere else to go, why wouldnít we invite them over for dinner? The way most of us Americans make a holiday feast you canít argue you donít have enough food. Show some love and open your home to them. Let Godís love shine through you! -WTK
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Helping the Helpless
Volume 5 Issue 50