Visiting the Orphan
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.
Here, James wants to remind us that it’s so important for us to visit and care for people in need, specifically orphans. Orphans are children who don’t have parents or relatives to look after or care for them. James would have seen many of these kids, especially throughout his travels with Jesus. They would go from town to town within the Roman Empire where there would have been all sorts of kids in the streets, alleys, villages, shacks, and camps.
Orphans within the ancient world, would have been left without any rights or representation in a court case or under the law. This why believers were often commanded to provide for and protect them against the evils of the world.
Orphans and widows were the socially powerless people of society. Serving these people was a sign of Israel’s calling as the people of God, His chosen race to declare and demonstrate the righteousness of God throughout all the earth to all people (Ex 22:20–24; Ps 146:9; Is 1:17). Here, James calls for believers, no matter what situation they are in, to look out for those that are otherwise helpless and hopeless, unless someone will step into their lives.
So, what should we do? James called believers to “visit.” What does that mean? In this context, visit means to “care for” or sacrificially serve or oversee where needed. The Greek word Epikeptomai comes from the same root word, episkopos, which means to oversee, and sometimes translates as bishop (Acts 20:28, Phil 1:1, I Tim 3:2). To visit means so much more than to stop in and chat, it means exercising oversight and 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 and see to their needs. We can do this by getting involved in a number of ways that we will learn more about in the next devotional.
Question: If someone asked you how you fulfill James 1:27, what would you say?
Prayer: Lord, let my heart be open to express Your love to orphans and widows this week in some tangible way.