The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow.
James 1:27 (NIV)
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.
Who cares about true religion? Too often the attention to religion is negative. Sexual abuses on the part of prominent protestant pastors or Roman Catholic priests gain 120 point headlines. Hard-line socially-conservative churches take a stand against homosexual marriage and fingers are pointed back accusing: You’re too judgmental! Everyone has his or her opinion about what constitutes true religion. The Christian church doesn’t fare too well in that regard in today’s secular news outlets and social media feeds.
There is another group, however, who cares about true religion in a very positive way. Widows, orphans, strangers, and those otherwise overlooked by the world deeply care about true religion as God defines it. True religion reflects the Father’s care for those most vulnerable. True religion cares for widows and orphans. True religion seeks not to be carried along with the rest of the world in pursuit of the better life at the expense of the care for the needy.
I notice that nothing is said in these verses about correct forms of worship, proper sacrificial practices, church polity, or even pure doctrine. Surely these things are important – as is clearly expressed in other portions of the Bible. But true religion does not make an end of these things. It might be that they are assumed to be settled. But it is clear that God does care for things beyond those concerns. Living out our faith in everyday ways, expressing our beliefs and values apart from worship stand tall in the eyes of God.
Certainly this does not mean that our treatment of widows, orphans and others justify us. We are not pleasing to God because we do these things. We do these things because we are justified. For Jesus’ sake he is already pleased. We do these things to express our faith in God, and to reflect God’s nature and character to the world around us. That is our kingdom calling. It matters to God and to those to whom we reflect God’s nature and care.