Pure Religion

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
At the beginning of the semester I interviewed the incoming students at Khulna Bible College to help get more acquainted with them. As they told of their family situation, home village, educational background and other personal information, I was struck with the fact that at least sixty percent had already lost their fathers. These are young men in their late teens and early twenties, but the head of their household is deceased. They and their siblings are “fatherless” and their mothers are “widows.”
I doubt that most people in the developed world are quite aware of just how many orphans and widows there are in this world. These young men are now to the age that they can help provide for their families, but many were still very young at the death of their father. This is a typical group in poor nations. Life expectancy is short, work and travel are often very dangerous, and many women and children are left alone.
The great tsunami of December, 2004 left thousands of orphans as part of its legacy. The world immediately reached out to them. Unfortunately, some reached out to help, while others sought to exploit. People may be divided into those who are willing to help the needy and those who seek to take advantage of them. Ancient Israel was condemned for “swallow(ing) up the needy, and mak(ing) the poor of the land fail”; for “buy(ing) the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 8:4,6). They were commanded rather, “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
Christians are emphatically those who seek to help the helpless. The nature of Christ, the commandments of God, and the principle of “love your neighbor as yourself” demand that compassion be extended to all those who are in need. That religion which does not defend the fatherless is impure and defiled. None who “shuts up his heart” from one in need and refuses to help him can claim to have the love of God in him (1 John 3:17).
Though “good works” may include much besides the giving of benevolent aid, it is beyond doubt that nothing is so representative of the category. We are reminded “to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1), to be “stir(red) up to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24), and to “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10).
Those who live in prosperous regions of the world may be lulled into neglect, not realizing just how much opportunity and need for good works exists. Truly the world is filled with orphans and widows, and many others in great need. Let us seek them out, and share the love of God in ways that benefit in this world as well as in that to come.

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