Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
In James 1:22 it says “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” A little later (verse 27) James defines what it means to do the word, and part of that definition includes “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.” That’s a “least of these” definition (see Matthew 25:31-46). When James wrote his letter, orphans and widows were among the most uncared-for groups of people. And, in some ways they still are.
I read this call to care for orphans, and I recognize the spiritual orphans. They have no parent-figure leading them in the faith. They may not have a parent at home, or maybe they do. But, they have no one to lead and care for them in spiritual matters. Mom and dad may have been to church at some point, but their faith is either dead or dying. If their children are going to believe in Jesus, they’ll have to hear about Him outside of the home. We’re called to care for these kids. God’s people are called to care for orphans: the kids who are on their own, the kids who have no one to show them the way,the kids who are having to lead their own parents.
James says to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. That’s meeting them where they’re at. That’s going after the tough issues like sex, drugs and drinking. That’s speaking truth in some difficult situations like homosexuality or abortion. I want to meet youth in these places and bring the gospel. I want to visit spiritual orphans and bring them in contact with Jesus. I have nothing to give but what I have received, the forgiveness and love of my Savior. That’s just what they need. They may be orphans, but I know a Father who wants to bring them into His family.
Published February 2013