Why Orphan Care?

The ultimate issue

If God’s highest aim in creation is to display his glory, then the most important question we can ask is, “How can I clearly display that glory?”

This wonderful and weighty burden falls on God’s people (Eph 3:10).   

What does God’s word say about orphan care?

In the book of James, the brother of our Lord presses the idea that we should not only hear the word, but also act on it.

His point is that in order to bring glory to God-to demonstrate genuine faith-a person must live out-in action-what he acknowledges to be true from God’s Word. 

James makes one very clear statement about what ‘doing’ looks like.  He says that religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).

His character revealed in three ways

  1. His heart for the orphan
  2. God loves to illustrate truth through stark contrast.  He exercises his power in meekness and loves when the values of his people clash with the standards of this world.

    Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 is about a man who hosted a great banquet and invited many people. But his guests made excuses and didn’t attend.

    The man sent his servant to those who lived in the streets and lanes of the city.  He invited the poor, crippled, blind and lame.  He then sent the servant further out to the highways to invite people to the house.

    This is similar to God’s call for the church to invite orphaned children into his home.

    Millions of orphaned children live on the streets completely vulnerable to evil and experiencing unbearable fear and suffering. God commands his people to go get these precious ones and invite them to come into his house, to join his family. 

    This is the heart of God toward the orphan and this is the command of God to his church.  We reflect his heart when we care for orphans in their affliction (Jas 1:27) and plead their cause in such a way as to win it (Jer 5:28).

  3. Our spiritual adoption
  4. Perhaps the most stunning realization for a believer who is thinking about caring for orphans is the realization that “I was once an orphan. God rescued me.”  The Bible is clear that our sin separated us from God; therefore, no one is born into his family.  Even worse, we were not only orphans, we were born under the curse of death, under the law, born into slavery (Romans 5-8, Gal 4:4-6).  We were alienated from God, dead in our sin, and completely lost. 

    But God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba! Father!’  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4-6).  God who is rich in mercy caused us to be born again to a living hope! (1 Pet 1:3).  The apostle Paul says that in love, our Father in heaven predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5).

    To ensure our standing as sons and daughters, even heirs and heiresses, the promised Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27) seals us as a guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph 1:14).  That same spirit is called the Spirit of adoption in Romans 8:15. 

    Romans 8:14-17 says, For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  Paul goes on to explain that even the creation longs for the sons of God to be revealed.  It yearns for the freedom that has been given to men who were born as orphaned slaves, but have become adopted sons and heirs of the living God (Romans 8:19-21).

    There is no other reality capable of inspiring more sacrificial love for the orphan than the empathy that arises within the heart of one who realizes that he has first been loved by Christ in exactly the same manner.  God loves adoption.  So must we. 

  5. His plan for mentoring
  6. Mentoring can also be called discipleship.  The key to discipleship involves the intersection of life and truth. Jesus selected twelve men to be a part of his personal life as he taught them the truth about himself. He drew three (Peter, James and John) into a closer relationship by showing them things he did not reveal to the others. Further still, Jesus engaged Peter individually numerous times to help him understand the eternal relevancy of certain circumstances.

    So, mentoring is much more than planning a few fun activities with a child to help them feel valued. Christian mentoring is an opportunity to point young men and women to the hope found in Jesus Christ alone.

    Mentoring helps children understand the gospel on a deeper level while they learn to live in light of its truth (1 Thes 4:1, 2 Thes 2:13-14, 1 Tim 6:20.) Through Christian mentoring, children mature as believers through a personal relationship with a seasoned follower of Christ. Mentors must be intentional as they focus on Jesus at all times and in all ways (Deut 6:7).

    God designed Christian mentoring as the primary means for one generation to share truth with another (Psalm 78:4-7).  This text and Deut 6:7 are primarily directed to parents and more specifically to fathers.  Sadly, there are tragic consequences when fathers abdicate this responsibility. In Joshua 2, the people served the Lord as long as Joshua and the elders were alive, but when Joshua’s generation died out, the next generation of leaders did not honor the Lord. “And the people did evil in the sight of the Lord…”

    Mentoring is an opportunity for God’s adopted children to exemplify truth for spiritual and physical orphans. The church should provide the context for on-going discipleship, discipline and instruction in the Lord (Eph 6:4). 

    God’s glory is wonderfully displayed when we, as the church, pursue orphaned children the same way God pursues us.

    Three stages reflect the glory of God demonstrated through the gospel beginning with the character of God and his steadfast love, moving through the redemption of his people, and finishing with the ongoing growth and maturity of believers through discipleship.

A Spiritual Litmus Test

Numerous times in Deuteronomy Moses commanded the Israelites to care for orphans. This command is associated with God’s blessing for doing so (Deut 24:19) or his curse upon the nation if they do not (Deut 27:19).  Interestingly, In Jeremiah 49:11, the Lord says, “Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.”  God is capable of caring for orphans with or without our help so this command is as much about the heart of the people as it is the practical needs orphans. God measured the fidelity of his people in part by their obedience to his command to care for orphans and he still does.  “Truly I say to you, ‘That which you did to one of the least of my people, that you did to me’ and That you did not do to one of the least of my people that you did not do to me” (Matthew 25:40,45).  The context for these sobering words of Jesus is the final judgment.

Examining the condition of our heart toward God is relevant as both a church body and as individuals.  Long before Israel was a nation, Job defended himself against the accusation that ‘he had sinned against God and this was the cause of his suffering.’ Job based his defense on the fact that he cared for widows and orphans in their affliction (Job 29:1-17).

Job says, ”God watched over me…his friendship was upon his tent…the Almighty was with me…I was called blessed…because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had none to help him.  The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.  I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.  I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him I did not know.  I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth.”

Later, when Job made his final appeal in Chapter 31, he again sighted his care for widows and orphans…”If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten a morsel alone, and the orphans has not eaten of it…if I have raised my hand against the fatherless...I could not have faced his majesty.”

For Job, caring for widows and orphans was central to his obedience to God. The key implication of this truth is that God’s command to care for orphans is not simply for the well-being of the orphan but also for the sanctification of the individual and the church. Caring for the fatherless is the purest example of genuine faith in action.