Two weeks ago I walked into the office at Lynn Haven UMC on Sunday morning as I do most Sundays. I checked my mail box and greeted those who were making their copies of class handouts or taking care of other business. I was assigned to preach in the Chapel at the 11:00 service and was speaking on overcoming the loneliness of solitude. A random thought suddenly occurred to me- one that was, oddly enough, related in a way, but which had not been incorporated as a part of the sermon.
I realized that of the seven women recently or currently in care at Titus 2’s residence, three had lost a spouse/significant other to death. Two had been raised in group foster homes, one struggles with insecure esteem and identity due to having been adopted, and one was tragically abused by her biological father and suffered neglect from her biological mother. In a real sense, each of these individuals is a “widow” or an “orphan”.
God is very clear about our responsibility, as his people, to provide for such individuals within our families and our community.
- Exodus 22:22- Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
- Deuteronomy 14:29- And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
- Deuteronomy 26:13- Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them.
- Psalm 82:3-Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
The practice of “gleaning” described in Scripture was instituted in order to provide for the needs of the widow, orphan, stranger, and impoverished.
Furthermore, in Lamentations 5:3, we discover that “We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.” There are times in our lives when we experience the sense of being entirely alone….either physically or emotionally. Even in adult years, when we lose our parents to natural deaths in their advanced years, we often feel the sting of being “orphaned.”
Such individuals who fit the description “widows and orphans” are all around us. They are not always as clearly identifiable as one might expect. Look beyond simply the description on an enrollment card or database screen that says “marital status” or “emergency family contact/relationship” for clues. As Lamentations points out, there is a long list of conditions that afflict us. We all are, at one time or another, grieved by and lament over the condition in which we find ourselves. Yet God is always faithful. He never leaves us. And in the Old Testament God commands his people, in the New Testament Christ commands his church, to care for those who mourn….whatever the cause….but especially the widows and orphans.
James 1:27 reminds us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Widows and orphans. I had not seen before what was right under my own hand….the responsibility for responding to exactly that call.