Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.
When believers in Holland learned that Nazi troops were systematically raiding orphanages and taking Jewish children to send them to their deaths in the concentration camps, brave Dutch men responded in dramatic fashion. They dressed themselves as SS officers, “raided” orphanages, and took the Jewish children to safe houses for care and protection.
One such safe house was the ten Boom residence, where Corrie and Peter ten Boom helped their parents save the lives of several Jewish babies.
When the war ended, Peter became an evangelist and served Christ for many years. As an elderly man, he travelled to Israel for a preaching engagement and, while there, suffered an unexpected heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital and it was determined that immediate open-heart surgery would be necessary to save his life.
Just before the surgery, the cardiologist said to Peter, “I see your last name is ten Boom. Are you by chance related to the ten Booms of Holland who sheltered Jews during World War II?” Peter said, “Yes, that was my family.” The doctor’s eyes filled with tears, and he looked down at Peter and said, “I am one of the babies your family saved . . . now it is my turn to help save your life.”
The surgery was successful.
James is calling for such an act of grace . . . and self-sacrifice—not to earn our way into heaven, but to show the world a demonstration of the grace of Jesus Christ.
James offers in our text a unique description of God: he refers to Him as God and “Father,” which is a rare and wonderful glimpse into the heart of God. James tells us that true Christianity is taking care of the fatherless and destitute; he then reminds us that this is just like God—He is both God and Father.
James is effectively saying that if you want to pursue Christian activity that really impresses God and shows that you are growing up into His likeness, you also will demonstrate fatherly care and compassion for orphans and widows. In other words, you’ll act like your Heavenly Father.
Are widows and orphans the only two classes of people who need grace today? No. But during James’ day, there were no social programs to help these particular people. In fact, when you study both church history and world history, you discover that Christians were the ones who established hospitals, orphanages, and rescue missions. Christians were the ones who built alms houses for the poor and infirmaries for the mentally handicapped and homes for the elderly.
An advanced western civilization did not create Christianity but, rather, Christianity created and advanced our western civilization.
Christianity introduced the stunning concept that life matters and every single person does, too—regardless of heredity, social status, health, race, or gender.
No wonder James writes, This is the kind of religion that is pure and faultless. Why? Because offering assistance to people who cannot repay you (orphans and widows) is a demonstration of the grace of God.
We were once orphans, too. But Christ, being rich in mercy, adopted us into His family through the shedding of His blood. And there’s no way we can repay Him for any of that, either. We who were once homeless have been granted the privilege to live in the Father’s house one day . . . forever.
Prayer Point: Who needs your help today? Pray for God to give you the opportunity and willingness to take James’ challenge to heart.
Extra Refreshment: Read Matthew 25:35-36 and notice how important taking care of orphans and widows was to Christ.
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