“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27 NLT
I read these words a few days ago in a book I am currently reading to review here on this blog, and I have to say that these words struck a serious chord in my heart and mind. This scripture was found in Max Lucado’s Outlive Your Life, of which there will be a review on here soon. The title of that chapter is “Stand Up for the Have-nots” and is all about how we are to help those whom we can.
“Pure and Genuine religion” should be the goal of all of us these days. I have written a great deal about the idea of “authentic faith” on this blog, and my goal in all that I do is to live a life seen as authentic. The idea of caring for Widows and Orphans is one that Jesus talks about a great deal, and the conversation continues among the apostles and the early church. Widows had literally no social standing in first century Palestine, their economic and material well-being was tied to the male portions of their families. As Max Lucado points out, many families would disown those who had converted to Christianity, so the widows of the church were often the lowest of the low.
Orphans are those who literally had no family, therefore had no system to tie into, either economically or materially. From the food in their bellies to the clothes on their backs they were dependent upon others for everything. So what is this scripture calling the church, and followers of Christ to? I think that this passage is calling us to be a family for those who have none. The church is to literally provide economic and material support to those who were unable to do so on their own.
Would you not help family? I think this is the idea that Jesus is getting at in his sermons, one that we miss out on a little bit today. We miss out not because of any mental miss, but because the culture of the time was so different from ours today. If we look at those who we see on the sidewalk as our brother and sisters, not merely as the person who is in between me and my car, how will we see them differently? So much of our lives involves putting on our blinders, how do we take the scales from our eyes and open them to the world around us?