Pure and undefiled religion ∙
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27
17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.
The coronavirus outbreak has had a catastrophic impact on planet Earth and has been a tragic ordeal for all Americans. However, amidst this global crisis, there has also been a distinct issue in the country’s nursing homes regarding COVID-19. In just nine months, around 100,000 individuals, including both residents and staff members in long-term care facilities, lost their lives due to the virus in 2020. As a result, numerous families had to endure the loss of their elderly parents and loved ones.
The individuals who yearned to be with their loved ones during their final days and moments were devastated. Unfortunately, due to rapid regulatory changes such as shelter-in-place mandates, many of those who passed away did so without the comfort and company of their family members. The lack of physical closeness, emotional emptiness, and absence of closure only added to their already profound grief.
A single statistic is particularly striking; individuals residing in long-term care facilities make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 43% of all COVID-19 deaths up until June 2020 (AARP Bulletin, December 2020). This catastrophic situation exposed severe deficiencies in how we care for our elderly loved ones.
Helping the needy holds a special place in the heart of the Father and reflects His nature and character. The Father desires that every child of the King develops a heart similar to His own, which involves caring for those in need. The essence of undefiled worship lies in tending to the needs of the less fortunate.
REFLECT & PRAY
Each child of the King has a God-given responsibility to assist those in need. “Do a little more than you’re paid to. Give a little more than you have to. Try a little harder than you want to. Aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family, and friends” (Art Linkletter).
Father give me a heart that truly wants to look out for and care for those in need.
To demonstrate the authenticity of their pure religion, every child of the King must actively apply spiritual truth. Genuine religion, which involves the inner transformation of one’s heart through faith in the Lord Jesus, is distinguished by its love for others, especially the most vulnerable members of society, namely orphans and widows. “‘Orphans and widows’ were the most helpless people in Jewish society, their ‘distress’ (literally ‘pressure’) coming from their desperate need of food and clothing” (Hughes). One embodies the essence of true, undefiled religion by caring for those most in need, the poor and vulnerable.
This was the clearly stated mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
We are never more like the Lord Jesus Christ than when we do what He has done! “Genuine religion is a life-changing force. One’s religion, then, should be more than external; it must spring from an inner spiritual reality that expresses itself in love to others and holiness before God” (Burdick).
The apostle John expounds the same principle in unforgettable potent, piercing words.
1 John 3:17-18
17 If someone has the world’s goods to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?
18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted by the world.
The Greek term translated visit is episkeptesthai. Episkeptesthai is derived from epí – upon and skeptomai – to look. It expresses looking after, caring for, tending, comforting, being concerned about, or nursing the sick (Matthew 25:36, 43). The noun form of this term is episkopos. It is translated as guardian, overseer, or elder. It refers to one who watches over and cares for the welfare of others (1 Peter 2:25).
The word visiting means “look in on; to go see.” It does not mean paying a social call but meeting physical needs. The old Jewish usage means to visit to care for and supply the needs of those visited (Fruchtenbaum).
The Greek term translated as trouble or distress is thlipsis. Thlipsiscomes from the Greek verb thlibo – to crush, press, compress, or squeeze. In several languages, “trouble and suffering” may be expressed as “that which causes pain” (UBS).
James urges us to do more than care for or give to the poor. It entails a deeper level of engagement that goes beyond empathy. It is not enough to sympathize with their plight; instead, we must take tangible steps to address their needs. Being compassionate alone is insufficient unless we take action to alleviate their suffering. We are not to merely “feel their pain.” We are to “meet their needs.”
It is tragic when we cannot meet the needs of those we love.
© Dr. H 2023