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 ESV
Have you ever been visited when you were in a hospital? Or visited someone when they were sick? Sometimes that is one of the most important things you can do for someone who is sick or hurting. Just being near them tells them that you care. James, as the brother of Jesus, would have remembered many of Jesus’s messages about visiting the sick, poor, and needy. Jesus often taught on the importance of visiting with the sick. In fact, Jesus said that when you love the neediest people, you are loving God. In other words Jesus taught that whatever good you do for the least of all people, or the lowliest of all people in society, you are doing for God (Matt. 25:40). Jesus was trying to tell His disciples that when they love others in need, it moves the very heart of God, and it publicly demonstrates their faith as genuine. Those who neglect this great privilege and responsibility prove themselves to have no faith in Christ at all (Matt. 25:41-46).
James wants to remind us to visit and care for people in need, specifically orphans, children who don’t have parents or relatives to look after or care for them. During James's travels with Jesus, going from town to town within the Roman Empire, James would have seen many children in the streets, the alleys, the villages, the shacks, the camps where homeless and hopeless children gather. He would have remembered their faces, the look of hopelessness. He would have recalled that there was no one there to care for them, no one to provide food, clothing, or shelter. James calls for Christians to do more than just stop in and say hi. To visit, in this context, means “to care for” or to sacrificially serve or oversee where is needed. The Greek word is epikeptomai, which comes from the same root word as episkopos, which means oversee and sometime translates as bishop (Acts 20:28, Phil. 1:1, I Tim. 3:2). To visit means so much more than stop in and chat; it means exercising oversight, a pastoral care of some sort. Children without parents are easily influenced and can be taken advantage of. James asks that Christians make time to care for them, to sacrificially serve them. An orphan in the ancient world would be left with out any representation in a case of court. In the Old Testament, providing and protecting the socially powerless people such as orphans, widows, and sojourners was a sign of Israel’s calling as the people of God, His chosen race to declare and demonstrate the righteousness of God throughout the earth (Ex. 22:20–24; Ps. 146:9; Is. 1:17). James calls for believers, no matter what situation they are in, to look out for the those who are otherwise helpless and hopeless.
Read Matthew 25:34–46
• What do the righteous do?
• What was Jesus response about them doing the right thing?
Lord, I love You. I want to help those in need. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear those You place in my life that need my help. I will serve You by serving them. I trust this in Jesus' name, amen!