PART TWO: What God Wants from Us
We’ve seen how God regards the plight of orphans and fatherless children. We’ve reviewed what Scripture has to say about the mercy and compassion He extends to them and the special place He reserves for them within the circle of His care. Now we need to ask ourselves what this implies for those of us who claim to love Christ, to follow Him, and to serve Him as Savior and Lord. Where do we fit in to the plan? Here are the last three of our “Seven Biblical Statements About Orphans:”
5. Our Responsibility. Because God defends the orphan and takes measures to protect and preserve his rights, we have an obligation to do the same. It’s a recurring refrain throughout the pages of the Old Testament. “What does it mean to ‘be righteous’ and to ‘do good?’” asks the prophet Micah. The answer comes back in clear and unmistakable language: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Among other things, this means working hard to see that orphans and widows receive justice under the law (Isaiah 1:17). It means delivering them from those who want to hurt them (Job 29:12) and sharing with them out of the abundance of our personal resources (Job 31:17). It includes doing everything in our power to make sure that they are never oppressed (Zechariah 7:10), subjected to violence (Jeremiah 22:3), or deprived of their rights (Ezekiel 22:7). In short, it implies that we put their interests at the top of our list of priorities. This is true for each and every one of us, but it bears special application to those who possess wealth or who occupy positions of power and authority: “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:1-3).
6. The Heart of Worship. Now comes the punch line. On the basis of these powerful teachings from the Torah and the Prophets, James, the apostle who perhaps places the strongest emphasis on the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New, draws a striking conclusion. Like Jesus Himself (see Matthew 5:23 & 24), James asserts that relationship trumps religion; and in this case he’s thinking especially in terms of the believer’s relationship with the fatherless. Employing a word that Paul uses elsewhere (Colossians 3:18) to denote “worship,” he tells us that “pure and undefiled religion” (Greek threskeia) is, in essence, a matter of “visiting orphans and widows in their trouble” (James 1:27). “To visit” in this context is not simply to “go and see once in a while.” It’s “to care about,” “to look out for,” even “to adopt a comprehensive plan for the benefit of” those whom the Lord has called us to serve on His behalf. If we aren’t doing these things, says James, we might as well forget about saying our prayers, offering our tithes, and singing our praise choruses. Without this, we’re missing out on the heart of worship.
7. Judgment. Our final point flows naturally from the one preceding it. If we aren’t taking time to care for orphans in some way or another, says James, we aren’t really worshipping and serving God; and if we aren’t really worshipping and serving God, it follows that we will at some point fall under His judgment. This idea appears by inference in the New Testament, but the Old Testament authors state it plainly, without pulling any punches: “‘They do not plead the cause, the cause of the fatherless; yet they prosper, and the right of the needy they do not defend. Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 5:28, 29). “‘And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness … against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien – because they do not fear me,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:5).
The conclusion of the matter isn’t far to seek. There’s a special place in the heart of God for the marginalized and disenfranchised of society. Orphans occupy a unique spot in the foremost ranks of that favored congregation. The fatherless experience their need for Him in a way that perhaps few others do; and in His turn, the Lord loves them with an everlasting love. To all who rely on His grace and call themselves by His name, He issues an invitation to follow suit. There are literally hundreds of ways in which we can do this. Adoption is just one of them.
If you don’t know where you fit into this picture, just ask. God will reveal His plan to you if you seek His will with your whole heart.