James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The book of James and its study is a much-needed element in our lives as believers. Too often, I find myself full of “wonderful,” compassionate thoughts, but lacking the action needed to effect change in my own life, or to bless another well. James reminds us that faith is about believing and doing. We are saved without any work on our part at all; Jesus’ death on the cross completely paid the price for our sin and made possible our reconciliation with our Father and eternity with Him. But the nature of true faith means that it will be accompanied by good works as a matter of course. As believers in Christ, we are changed more and more into His likeness and nature, and this verse reminds us what is close to the heart of God: caring deeply for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, and personal holiness.

When James describes how we are to relate to the most vulnerable and suffering among us, he exhorts us to offer ourselves in solidarity with them. Active giving to relieve their suffering is irrevocably part of this ministry of help. Caring for those in need and seeking justice for them was hard-wired into the Old Testament instruction on how to live as part of God’s family (Deut. 10:18, Isa. 1:17, Jer. 7:5-7) But this was also to function with the context of relationship. To “visit” indicates our presence, being near to those in need. Rather than running away from the sorrow and pain of others, Christ-followers are equipped to lovingly enter their suffering, and just “be there,” as well.

The Incarnation is the ultimate example; Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, “God with us.” The One who willingly set aside His rights and entered the anguish of humanity offered us what we were unable to gain for ourselves: salvation, peace, love, joy, and the riches of His provision that meets our every need. As we care for the vulnerable in our midst, we deeply reflect the loving nature of our Heavenly Father and enact His values in the world.

“Dear Lord God in Heaven, Your design for us is great, and You give us the knowledge that we need. You tell us to care for those who are widows and orphans with our very presence, and to keep ourselves pure and undefiled from the world. Lord, we ask that you help us to turn our attention and affection on recognizing the needs in others lives around us, and not be so overly busy and concerned with our own selfish interests. Let us be free from the vanity of the world that would corrupt our hearts, but rather help us to take time to share ourselves with those who could use some company and someone to care. Thank you Lord for spending time with us to make our lives more fulfilling. Now, Lord, help us to do just that for others, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” 

Article Written by: Jennifer Harper