Who Are Our Widows and Orphans?
I'm a visual learner, and I like to read. So back in January I began a one-year, chronological daily Bible reading plan on my YouVersion app...which, by the way, if you haven't downloaded, you certainly should! Sometimes those days' readings get really long, and although I love to read, I read slowly. Thankfully, the app can read the scripture passages for me! So as I brush my teeth in the morning, I'm listening to some dude with a rather nice accent read through Micah for me.
A few days ago, I was in Isaiah, and I listened through a chapter I've read many times, but this particular time it captured and held my attention. Isaiah 1. I would dearly love for us to read it together, but it's too long, so let's listen to it together!
As I first listened to this, so many different things jumped out at me that are pertinent to what we're living through right now in America. But perhaps the part that really caught my attention was verse 23:
Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow's case does not come before them.
Here we go. Part of the root of our problem today. You see, God is a Father to the fatherless; He defends the widows and champions them.
It's always been interesting to me, Old Testament law concerning widows and marriage... Let's read a couple verses together real quick:
If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deut. 25:5-6)
You see, ancient Israel - and the entire ancient world, for that matter - was an extremely patriarchal society. Men ruled it all. Women, more often than not, were traded and treated as property. But God never intended this. We see this in the Garden, when He created Eve to be a helpmate for Adam. Not necessarily his equal, because men can't be equal to women and women can't be equal to men. God created us with our own roles in the family unit, but He did create us to be each other's helpmate...not to be owned as property.
In that society, men did the work, providing for the family, while the women ran the household. They had the children, raised them, kept the house in running order, and made sure there was enough food for the entire family. (And in those days, families tended to live together, so a lot of food was constantly needed!) This is no small task; however, there was no income from this particular role with which a woman could support herself or her family if her husband were to die.
So, while this law may seem gross or unnecessary to us, back in the day, it was a kindness from God to the widows. Because it was more than just making sure that the dead husband's name was carried on; it was also about making sure that the widow was taken care of. (To read an example of this law played out, check out Genesis 38!) Through this provision, God shows us that He is not like the rulers that we have come to expect that only look at people for what they can provide that is of worth financially. What they can do to progress said leader's position. This, thankfully, is not God's intention!
Let's think, for a moment, on Esther...or maybe her less-known name of Hadassah. What do you remember about her story? That she became Queen of the Persian empire? That she risked her life to save her people? That she was the prettiest woman in all the land? That she was an orphan, raised by her cousin?? Did you remember that last part? That she was an orphan...??
God, in His wisdom and kindness, provided Esther with a "father" to prepare her for her biggest trial: saving her people from complete destruction. Mordecai was actually her cousin, but he adopted her when her parents died. God knew that when the time came, Esther would need a father-figure to challenge her to answer the calling He has placed on her.
But not all the orphans of the past had a cousin who would step in and raise them. This is one reason why God describes Himself as the Father to the fatherless: He sees their pain and loneliness. He knows how that feels, and He does care for them.
But what does all this have to do with us today? Well, we as a collective church body have failed in our responsibility to care for the orphans and widows in our communities. We have stood idly by while the government has taken them into the fold through programs like food stamps, welfare, medicare, foster care.... I'm not saying that those things are inherently bad; many good things can be accomplished through those programs. But instead of taking on those in our community who need us the most, we have given our government the freedom to do it for us.
This was, by no means, God's plan for us as believers! James, Jesus' brother and the leader of the Jewish Christians after His ascension, said in chapter 1 verse 27:
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.
This was God's intention for us: to take care of those around us who have no way of taking care of themselves.
But I would like to challenge you to bring this charge forward 2,000 years and apply it practically to the world we live in today...
Think for a moment on how many single moms you know. Single moms - whether divorced or never married - who have at least one child, possibly more. Single moms who work low-paying jobs because they have no "college degree." Single moms who struggle to pay the rent and house bills each month, let alone buy her child(ren) the new clothes they desperately need. Single moms who put their pride aside and apply for those food stamps and stand in line once a month at the local Christian Service Center. Single moms who don't know...they just don't know...
Continue thinking for a moment on how many children you know that either don't know their fathers or their fathers have no interest in seeing them. Children who cry frequently wondering why daddy doesn't like them. Children who aren't seeing what it is to truly be a man and father. Children who have no discipline because mom is so tired when she gets home at the end of the day that she goes straight to bed. Children who don't get involved in local activities because they don't have "soccer parents." Children who, studies show, will grow up to live in the same kind of environment in which they were raise and perpetuate this kind of dysfunction to the next generation. (Here are two articles you can read discussing this phenomenon: "Why Do Single-Parent Families Put Children At Risk?" and "Are Children Raised With Absent Fathers Worse Off?")
I would challenge you to think of these as our orphans and widows as well as those whose husbands and fathers have died. And we have plenty of the former in our community! How do I know? Because I see them everyday. I see the ones who have no other option than to come here for a free pregnancy test. I see the ones who come here with three children in tow and another one possibly on the way with not a single father in sight. I see the children that come in with no behavioral discipline because mom is distracted with the basics of life. I see them everyday.
This is our mission field as a collective body of Jesus-followers. This is what a family does: take care of our hurting family members. These children of God (whether they have accepted Him as Lord and Savior or not) are hurting. They need our support and help. This is why Sav-A-Life exists: to Share Jesus to Save Lives.
I challenge you to do something. Do something to help us help them. Do something to directly help them. Consider donating your time weekly to love on and speak Life into these hurting. Consider donating your financial resources so that we can continue offering programs and materials to these hurting. Consider praying for us daily or prayer walking our Center. Consider....