I. Orphans are not mentioned often in the New Testament, once to be precise, but many have developed unusual ideas about how to care for the orphans in our midst.
A. Unusual, because their teaching does not follow the plain statements of the New Testament.
B. The passage we will delve into is James 1:27.
II. The Bible’s teaching on orphans
A. Who are orphans?
1. The word means fatherless. A child without a father to support the child physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
a. Eph 6:4 - Fathers are to nurture and train their children in the ways of the Lord
b. Without a father, many important things would be missing. Of course, the most critical is a means of living.
B. Old Testament teachings may help us understand the need
1. Ex 22:22-24 - Don’t take advantage of orphans
2. Deut. 24:17 - Don’t deprive them of justice
3. God is concerned about orphans - Deut. 10:18, Ps. 68:5
C. To visit has a deeper meaning than you would first believe
1. From the Greek word, episkeptomai
a. Thayer: “to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes; . . . in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go see one. . . . to look upon in order to help or benefit; e.g. to look after, have a care for, provide for . . .”
b. Vine: “to look upon, care for, exercise oversight.”
(1) Note that the word episkeptomai is related to the Greek word for overseer. The word we derive the office of a bishop or elder who oversees the work of a congregation.
(2) Here a child is being overseen
2. Other uses of the word in the New Testament
a. Luke 1:68, 78-79 - Zacharias prophesied that God would visit mankind – A prophecy about the coming Messiah.
(1) Christ did not have brief chat with mankind. He did not send a representative on his behalf.
(2) Christ’s visit was a direct, personal interaction with mankind.
b. Acts 7:23-24 - Moses’ visit to his brethren involved his taking personal action in their defense.
c. Acts 15:36 - Paul and Barnabas visited the brethren directly to see how the work was progressing.
d. Matt. 25:35-36 - Visiting those in prison
(1) Not by sending gifts, but by directly interacting with those in prison
3. Vincent’s Word Studies: “James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money. Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the world’s sorrow: to visit the afflicted, and to visit them in their affliction.”
III. Can you see that placing money in the collection plate will not fulfill your duty to visit widows and orphans?
A. Ask yourself, who is James talking to? It says to “himself” that is you and I as individual Christians.
B. Yet some will say, “If it is my duty, then it must also be the church’s duty, since the church is composed of individual Christians.”
C. Is the church just a group of individual Christians?
1. I Cor 12:14 - The church is not one member, but many
2. Matt 18:15-17 - In dealing with a problem member, the church is not an individual or a group of Christians.
3. The church has distinct actions
a. It assembles - Heb. 10:25, I Cor. 14:23
b. It has membership - Acts 9:26, I Cor 5:1-6
c. It has elders to oversee it’s work - Acts 14:23, I Pet 5:1-2
d. It has a treasury - I Cor 16:2
e. It is distinct from other churches - Rom 16:16, Phil 4:15
4. As you see, the church is not just a group of Christian – it is something more.
D. Do the commandments to Christians apply to the church
a. Individuals raise money by honest labor - Eph 4:28
b. Churches raise money by collections - I Cor 16:1-2, II Cor. 9:6-7
a. Individuals marry - I Cor 7, Rom 7
b. Churches cannot marry because they are already married to Christ - Eph 5
3. There are examples where the responsibility of an individual overlaps with the responsibilities of a church.
a. But there are things an individual may do that the church cannot
b. There are things a church can do, that an individual cannot (e.g. the Lord’s Supper)
E. The Bible makes a distinction between the Christian and the church
1. I Cor 14:34-35 - Women are to be silent in the church, but may ask at home (as an individual).
2. Acts 4:35-37, 5:4 - Money was their own until they gave it to the Lord
3. I Tim 5:16 - Christian families are to support their needy widows, the church was only charged with a select group.
F. If the church is charged with the responsibility of caring for orphans, then we must be turn to the passage that gives the charge, shows the charge by example, or implies the charge to the church. No such passage exists.
IV. Those who give money to the church so the church in turn may give it to an orphan’s home is twice removed from truly visiting the fatherless in their affliction.
A. The command is to you and me.
B. The responsibility is to take a personal hand in aiding those in need. You must get your hands “dirty.”
1. Giving money to United Way will not relieve you of your responsibility.
2. Giving money to an orphan’s home will not relieve you of your responsibility
3. You need to get involved, one-on-one.
C. You see widows and orphans need financial support, but that is not all they have lost. In fact, to them it is only a small portion of their grief. They have lost their family! They need love, attention, sympathy, care – THAT is visiting.