James 1:27 (ESV) 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.
It all starts with forgiveness
When I ask a question like this I am reminded in my heart of what Simon Peter (my favorite disciple as like me he consistently had his foot in his mouth) & Jesus said in the following discussion in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 18:21 (ESV) Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Peter thought he was being generous and spiritual by offering forgiveness seven times which was more than culture demanded him to and Jesus (who saw the heart behind what Peter was asking) advised many more than that Peter. He then goes on to tell the following parable.
Matthew 18:23 (ESV) “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Isn’t that the way with us dear Christian? We can’t let go of the little hurt we have against our brothers and sisters and neglect the fact we have been forgiven of so much ourselves by our father in heaven. If I was choosing a character in this account that most represents me it would be the servant who owed 10,000 talents.
What about these widows and orphans?
Let me tell you what bugs me about this passage of scripture and the way we have interpreted it, what James meant for good, in our Western “less is more” culture, we use it as an excuse to not help “non cookie cutter situations”. I have heard of people being denied help and the decision makers cite this passage.
They state “well you are divorced, you are not a widow” or “technically you have family, even although it’s not a good situation you will have to seek help from them” and whilst it is not wise to judge and we have to look at each situation based on its own merits we should be looking to help whenever possible.
Really we should be looking to use the abundance (don’t laugh if you are poor) to help those of you with less, in being blessed with the opportunity to do this bible study on a Sunday evening I realize I have very little to complain about and by comparison to what some of my brothers and sisters have been through and they still choose to follow Jesus it is humbling.
Help not enablement
And wisdom has to be used here too, if we choose to intervene in the name of Jesus then we must do so to help them progress and get back on their feet and not to enable them or help them slide into bad choices again.
If we choose to give food we have to give as abound gift and not thinking anything in return. I heard a story of a lady who was helped by someone, she received too much of a gift and knew her neighbor was in a worse situation than she and her kids were and gifted that person some of the gift she received.
The original giver found out and proceeded to tear a strip off her, accusing her of not needing help and abusing the gift she was given when in turn she was making that gift go further. The actions if the giver ruined the relationship between the two and what God intended for good it was spoiled because of interpretation of a regift.
If we are continually helping someone so that they rely on you and they stop trying to provide from. Themselves then that opens a new problem, if they truly cannot provide from themselves and it has become too much if a strain then that’s that’s a conversation you need to have before the relationship becomes strained.
When they are not trying and it is obvious that only decisive actions will solve the issue then you have to be in prayer and be honest with the one you are helping.
Getting back to the widows and orphans
James talks about the two most vulnerable parts of society, they don’t have anyone to look after them but if the situation merits intervention then we should be looking to help this in need regardless of how we classify them.
We need to help the destitute, the divorcee, the felon, the cast out, the abused, the homeless, the exploited & the ones the world has chewed up and spat out. We can’t use excuses (or use doctrine as a limiter) to help.
It will get messy folks, if they weren’t in a mess then they wouldn’t need help! Have patience with those who haven’t got all those boxes ticked yet!
The question I would ask in these situations would be “if Jesus was there would he have help?” And he would not only have helped their current situation but changed direction of their soul.
And that must very the end goal, to not just help them in their current plight but to show them Jesus through your life and your help. Win them with your love and your example and introduce them to your saviour. That will really be helping them.
Thank you for reading this article and I pray these words are a blessing to you and please share, like or comment below as the LORD leads you to.