November 4th was Orphan Sunday. We planned to have Andrew Schneidler speak about The Children’s Law Center of Washington at TEC that day until I realized that I would be out of town. I’m glad we waited. For that matter, while I’m thankful for the Christians who have coordinated a campaign to raise awareness about the global need for fathers to the fatherless, we aren’t limited to raise awareness on one Sunday only. Not only that, we aren’t limited to raise awareness about only one issue. We ought to love all the things that God loves, but we can’t give attention to each one at the same time. Likewise, we ought to lament all the sins that God laments, the myriad of ways His heart is ignored. Again, we can’t do it all at once.
So we had our own orphan Sunday and, in some ways, every Sunday is. We were all orphans, all of us. We were born by a father who hated us from the beginning. He gave us his nature, his murdering, lying nature. Then he abandoned us to face the wrath for ourselves. Yet because his heart is so twisted, he loves to watch us act like him, because he knows it is the worst thing for us.
Then the heavenly Father sent His Son to earth to find and deliver many brothers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate adoption advocate, the ultimate adoption attorney, the ultimate adoption donor. He knew the legal requirements and fulfilled them. He paid the cost so in full so that we could be sons and daughters of God. He saved us and brought us into His eternal family and now no one can pluck us out of His hand. He’s given us new names, a new nature, and a new future. The Lord’s Table is full of the Father and Son’s food, and we’re invited as His adopted children.
God wrote through the apostle Paul, “Believe the gospel.” God wrote through the apostle James, “Prove your belief.” In chapter one of his letter, James exhorted his readers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). He addressed three doings of doers in the very next paragraph, three works to watch to discover if one’s walk is worthless or worshipful.
First, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (v.26). Second, on the positive side, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (v.27a) And third, God pleasing religion is also “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (v.27b).
The initial talking point is our talking. Whether or not we control our tongues matters. If we use our tongues to bless the Lord but curse men who are made in God’s image (3:9-11), there’s reason to be concerned about the source of the spring.
The third comment is about worldliness. Being stained by the immoral, unmerciful, bickering, self-centric codes of the world is a sign of spiritual adultery. It does not match a life of faith.
In between, James clarifies that we have immediate, temporal responsibilities to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Saying, “Be warmed and filled” comes out of dead-faithed mouths (2:15-17). So every Christian would-be-doer-of-the-word must care for orphans and widows if they want to be blessed. It doesn’t mean that every person must adopt a child or take home a widow, but it does mean that we must take to heart our responsibility to give ourselves and serve those in affliction. Otherwise, our words about obeying the Word are worthless.