Lately, I’ve almost been shocked as I compare the ministries and focus of local churches to one of the most prominently used verses on orphan care. I pose a lot of questions for thought in this blog. They aren’t all pointed at something specific. Please feel free to share your own thoughts – I’d love to hear them.
In the Bible, James 1:27 says, “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.” Now the word “accepts” varies in other translations from “pure and genuine religion” to “religion that is undefiled”; they basically all say the same thing.
Could it be any more clear? This is the type of religion that God accepts – sees as genuine and undefiled.
Which brings us the the question: what religion are we putting out or is our church promoting? Does it match up to this definition?
Some might say, “Well this is just one verse. There are plenty of other places where we’re told other things.” Sure, but take a look at all the other portions* of the Bible that tell us the exact same thing:
“If I have kept my bread to myself not sharing it with the fatherless—then let my arm be broken off at the joint.” Job 31:17, 22
Ouch. He seems pretty torn up over the idea of not doing anything for the cause of the widow and orphan.
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:22-24
Extreme much? Yes, but maybe this is what we’re seeing in our culture today? So many have become widows and fatherless – could it be a result of not caring for the ones we had in the first place? Just a thought.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
This one’s not a question. It’s post as a command.
Too Good at Being Unpolluted
Most of the other things that go into what make religion acceptable to God – all the don’ts, if I may – are pretty much summed up in “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Plenty of churches today are doing a bang-up job at this – so much so perhaps that they’re terrified of getting their hands dirty: “Oh, if I allow that orphan in foster care into my home they’ll bring ‘pollution’ into my home.” “What if the orphan I adopt has a health defect? If I have to pay to fix it, it’ll take away from my giving record for the church (not to mention the tax breaks).” “But that widow with no family to support her isn’t even a Christian – I can’t expose myself to that.”
But what if paying for an adoption or building a widow’s home started being viewed as a more direct form of giving to the ministry of the church? After all, we do make up the Church don’t we?
Can the Uninvolved Church Still Be Acceptable?
Which brings me to my next thoughts. Maybe I’m being too harsh by pointing at the whole of each uninvolved, local church. Does it count for a church to be considered “acceptable” simply because some of its members have adopted? Or does a church need to go so far as having it’s own orphan care and widow ministry to be considered acceptable?
Well, I’m open to your thoughts on this one, but overall, I think it’s safe to say caring about widows and orphans in some way beyond a compassionate feeling in our hearts is required for every individual Christian. If that were happening for every single Christian, I think we’d have a lot more orphans and widows being cared for and loved than we see in churches right now.
I’m not pointing the finger – if I am, I’m pointing it at me just as much as you and the uninvolved church. Because when it comes down to it, we all make up the Church and we are the ones responsible.
Come to think of it, if I really call myself a Christian, claiming to care for what He cares for, I should be doing more than I am in my local church.
So what do you think? What makes a church acceptable?
*John 14:18; Psalm 27:10; Psalm 68:5; Psalm 82:3; Psalm 146:9; Job 29:12; Acts 20:35; John 14:15-21; Psalm 10:18; Psalm 10:17; Matthew 25:40; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Jeremiah 22:3; Jeremiah 5:28; Psalm 10:14; Malachi 3:5; Jeremiah 49:11; Isaiah 1:23; Esther 2:7; Deuteronomy 24:17-21; Hosea 14:3; Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 7:6; Job 22:9; 1 Timothy 5:3-4; Job 29:13; Psalm 94:3 & 6; Psalm 82:4; Psalm 82:3-4