By Danette Becker
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
In James’ day widows had no rights, and few people, if any, went out of their way to help them. Orphans were often left to fend for themselves without anyone really caring. If James were writing to us today, he might also mention single parents, special-needs children, the unborn, migrant workers, the elderly, and any others in our society who are left to fend for themselves, who have no one to speak up for them.
Compassion is always costly. We have to be willing to invest ourselves. Caring for the hurting is more than a recurring withdrawal. Helping those in need will require more than the extra bit of time and effort it takes to pass a granola bar through your car window to a panhandler. Much good can come from donating money and offering a handout, but God inspires more. Visiting orphans and widows demands more than the swipe of a Visa. Biblical compassion compels us to invest in the lives of real people around us in a way that may cost us much but reaps eternal rewards beyond anything we stand to lose today.
Acute needs might not greet you at your doorstep, but you are most likely surrounded by people in difficult, even dire, circumstances. Every minute, nearly 20 people become victims of domestic violence. 33% of women and 25% of men have endured abuse. More than likely, someone you know quietly suffers domestic abuse. According to the preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 68,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018. More than likely, someone you know quietly suffers through addiction. There are more than 400,000 children in foster care, due in no small part to the opioid epidemic. More than likely, your county has children in desperate need of loving homes. The suicide rate in the United States recently hit a 30-year high. More than likely, someone you know is at risk of harming themselves — possibly fatally. This list could lengthen with problems like homelessness or hunger and poverty, and that’s just in America. The global needs are staggering.
Compassion will cost us our time, money, and comfort, but we’ll gain irrepressible joy in serving and not being served (Mark 10:45). We can imitate God’s costly compassion by serving the orphan, the widow, and those in need because Christ purchased an indestructible treasure for us in heaven beyond anything we might risk losing in the vapor of this life (Matthew 6:19–20). In fact, we’ll find that the path of greatest service is the path of maximum joy for our own souls because, after all, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)
God, open our eyes to see the needs of people who need our care. Give us Your eyes of compassion and mercy. Forgive us when we don’t have the right attitudes toward those in need. Show each of us where we are to serve and may we do it with a happy and willing heart. May our religion, our acts, be pure and undefiled, sincere and genuine, and free from corruption and hypocrisy.