Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The third area I covered in the lesson was our duty to orphans/fatherless.
Yes, we have a duty, based on command, the same as we have a duty based on the command to love, teach, spread the Gospel, and worship.Look at how the nation of Israel included the lonely in their culture: Deut 16:14-15 “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” God’s people should accept the fatherless as Family…do not deny them love, affection, and physical needs. Love them with God’s great love! We will “be altogether joyful” if we do this. This is because we are truly family when we show the love and compassion God shows to the fatherless, widow, and those who have been marginalized by society.
In 2 Samuel chapter 9, David shows us a perfect example of what it means to love and care for the orphan. After he became king over Israel, David asked if there was a surviving member of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show his love. Most of the people probably already knew there was only one person left; Mephibosheth. He was a crippled man, most likely shunned by his fellow Israelites since he was not only considered worthless as a man, but reviled as a member of Saul’s house. But, when David heard about Mephibosheth, he took him in with no thought of how Mephibosheth could benefit him. In fact, Mephibosheth was crippled and probably required more care than most would. It’s the kindness and love we should exhibit to children who need families.
Zechariah 7:9-11goes further toward the call for love, justice, and mercy toward the fatherless. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” We have a duty to render true judgments – don’t misjudge or prejudge a situation. Don’t presume to know about someone’s situation before knowing the facts. Have mercy on the lonely. Be kind and let them know they are loved and cared for by God’s people. Only then can we say we are truly fulfilling this command.
The next passage will probably penetrate your breastbone deeply as it does mine. Deut 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” This may be an indictment on most Americans – How often do we look at our paycheck and say, “I’m going to buy this and this and this” When we should not go over our vineyards again and again, but leave some of it for those who truly need it? God always reminds us that we were once slaves to sin and therefore we should share what He has given us with those who are still “aliens” lost in the wilderness.
Finally, James gives us the core statement we must seek to understand and abide by in 1:27 “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.” Do you want true religion? If you do, this is it, folks. This is where you need to focus your hearts. Worship, baptism, prayer, and every other item we focus on as Christians are absolutely necessary and important, but taking care of orphans and widows is DEFINED as True Religion. If you want your religion to be true, take care of widows and orphans. Of course, keep yourself unstained from the world. And I believe that this goes right along with caring for those who are weaker, because what does the world say? “Step on whoever to get to where you want to be! Don’t give that extra money to help the less fortunate, use it for what you want! Don’t trust God to provide for your needs, He will leave you high and dry!” Don’t listen to those lies, God’s people. Have courage and love and practice true religion!