By Elizabeth Prata
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
How does pure and undefiled religion have anything to do with widows and orphans?
This is the section in Chapter 1 where James is explaining being a doer of the word and not just a hearer. The Bible urges us to always be doing good. In Bible times, widows and orphans were often destitute and without any sort of societal safety net, help, or support. In many cases today, it is the same. Widows and orphans need help.
Your religion is undefiled if it is motivated to do good on behalf of Christ, without selfish motives. It’s hard to be purely altruistic while we still retain our sin nature. But doing good to orphans and widows goes a long way to stripping any lurking selfishness, because we can’t furry any favor with that an orphan. They don’t have any power. Widows often don’t have anything to give back. They can’t do anything for us. If we give to widows and orphans, the action has a greater chance of being pure than with any other demographic. And it’s a population that always needs help.
It should be noted that the verse about the doing good to widows and orphans ends chapter 1 and the next verse opens chapter 2 and warns against partiality, calling it a sin, James chapter 2, verses 1-4 say,
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Do good to those who can’t give back, do good to people anonymously, do good because Jesus is good.