Words of Faith 4-23-2020
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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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.
I visited one of our missionaries a few years ago. He told me about how hard it can be to coordinate groups that come from the United States to work. One team he recalled had arrived, and as he began to direct them to the construction site for a new school, the visitors were suddenly uncomfortable with the plan. They explained that they did not come all this way to build a school. They came to do street preaching and witnessing. They were there to win souls. Anyone could lay block.
Now don't misunderstand. No one has more passion for souls than this particular missionary. No one. But he had learned early in his mission work this message we hear from James. Some practical parts of Christian mission must come first. People who cannot read cannot grow personally in God's Word. "Third world," people who are illiterate are usually also hungry.
There are desperate human needs that preaching on the street with a megaphone will not begin to touch. A religion that would notch its belt with souls won while ignoring human needs-- the widows and orphans-- is, well, not "pure and faultless," according to James. We will leave it at that.
The truth is that day to day life in the Spirit will set us face to face with day to day human needs and concerns. Who will Jesus guide us to first? The prominent possible convert or the exciting new ministry? The wealthy new family in town? Actually, Jesus will guide first to those who have no one else. Widows and orphans were the neediest of the community who are often abandoned to their circumstances.
James says that the kind of religion that God our Father accepts is the kind that exerts a positive influence on one's life. James never really says what religion is. He just gives a concrete measure of authenticity based on how it changes one's life. 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.
The care of orphans and widows is not the only concrete measure of faith, but it is an excellent one. The word translated "to care for" is used elsewhere concerning care for the sick. This is not merely a social call. James calls for the care of their needs. This is faith expressing itself through love (Gal 5:6).
One whose religion is genuine will also avoid being polluted by the world. The term "world" describes the total system of evil that permeates every sphere of human existence and is set in opposition to God and to righteousness.
In essence, James says: "I can always measure your church simply by watching the way you treat the widows and orphans.” It is a truth that James surely learned from his half-brother Jesus who said: If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.
Who are the widows and orphans today? Not just those who are alone because of the circumstance of death. Many are abandoned by other circumstances and the ravages of our culture. The single moms. The single dads. The kids who don't have a mom or a dad at home. The needs may be more spiritual, economic, or both. Whatever the case, a REAL expression of religion-- a genuine faith relationship with God in Jesus Christ-- will start here.
Lord, who have I been missing? Is there someone you have put in my path that you desire for me to love, support, care for, or give to? Lord give me a faith relationship and faith walk that is pure and faultless. Amen.
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