What is Pure and Undefiled Religion?
In our Book Club we’ve been reading about Naomi and Ruth, both widows. A group of us went to see Chonda Pierce, recently widowed. A church member recently went home to be with Jesus, leaving behind his widow.
So yeah what does all of this have to do with you? Allow me to explain. The Bible is clear about the subject of widows. And orphans, for that matter. Here are just a few verses.
What is pure and undefiled religion?
"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
This verse in James clearly states that visiting orphans and widows is pure and undefiled religion. What kind of “religion” are we practicing?
What is worse than an unbeliever?
"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8
Worse than an unbeliever? Not something we would want said about us, right?
How are we suppose to practice righteousness?
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. ...Matthew 6
So that your giving may be in secret – that pretty well sums that up, eh?
Do Faith and works go together?
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:14-17
Is there fruit bearing in your life? Do you proclaim faith, but don’t show it? Do you pat someone on the back saying, “I’m here if you need anything” and that’s the sum total of your “being here?”
If you haven’t read the story of Naomi and Ruth I encourage you to. If you have and it’s been a long time, give it another go. I believe God will have something new for you. I’ve read about Naomi and Ruth before too and every time I do, I learn something new. While, yes, the fact that she and Naomi were both widows are clearly relevant to what we’re talking about here today; I want to go a little deeper and point out another fact about their story. I’m sure I knew this before, but in the past my focus has always been about Boaz and Ruth. Which isn’t something I’m trying to take away from. I just want to point out one of the other many gems that God is showing us here.
When they returned to Naomi’s native home the Bible is not clear on where they lived, but it is clear they didn’t have food. Ruth chose to provide for them by going out to gather the leftovers behind those harvesting in the fields. She was gathering the leftovers and scraps. Wow. And, she was thankful to even be getting that. She was a picture of desperation. Remember when we talked about that a couple weeks ago? It came up again this past week in Sunday School.
Mark chapter five tells us the stories of two very different lives and what Jesus did for them. What does this have to do with widows and orphans? What does this story have in common with Ruth and Naomi? Desperation is the common denominator. The stories of the people in Mark five and the story of Ruth and Naomi and the stories of widows and orphans can be one of hopelessness, but that is a lie of the enemy. That is not reality for the child of God.
Hopelessness is not reality for those who desperately seek Jesus, no matter what.
Ruth was a foreigner. She was not well accepted at first. She was gathering the leftovers and the scraps for crying out loud. And all the while trusting God to see her through. Desperate measures to get to Him.
God was faithful to Ruth and Naomi.
The woman in Mark five had suffered years from her illness. Not only physically, but socially she was shunned. She was alone. Without hope. Until the ONE was within reach. Knowing that her actions could get her into really big trouble she made a desperate attempt to just touch His garments. The result?
Jesus healed her, instantly.
Then there’s the synagogue leader. His daughter was dying. He desperately sought Jesus out to heal her before it was too late. While in the midst of pleading with Jesus, she died. “It’s too late, Jesus,” He was told. But Jesus had other plans. He went to this man’s home and healed the little girl, saying, “the child is not dead, but asleep.” His timing is always perfect. Say it with me,
“His timing is always perfect.”
All around us are people. Desperate people. Widows. Orphans. People. We’ve been given a golden opportunity to love on them. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. Don’t miss it, friend. Don’t offer a pat and empty words. Not only should we have an attitude of desperation in seeking Christ I believe God wants to love desperate people through us.
"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5