All throughout the Bible, there is a precedent to care for widows and orphans. The most well known verse on the topic would be James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you [NLT].” The NIV translation words it as “pure and faultless” religion. This is great news for me because it means that when I’m caring for the marginalized, I can’t go wrong. I struggle sometimes knowing God’s will for my life, but I can go back to scripture and feel confident that this journey lines up with God’s heart. Sometimes I want to make God’s will about me: what I get out of it, how fulfilled I feel, or the extraordinary things God will do through me. This process is different. The care I give isn’t reciprocated, it’s largely in my home without anyone there to witness it and fuel my pride, and it’s often slow moving progress with a lot of daily routine thrown into the mix. It isn’t grand, but it is something God wants us to do.
Let’s consider the circumstance in Acts 6 where the Hellenistic widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Acts 6: 1-5a, “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’5 This proposal pleased the whole group.”
This situation occurred at a time in the early church when “all the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32).” They were sharing all they had, meeting financial needs, and they started a program where they were feeding the needy. In this passage, a disagreement broke out between the two factions of Jews, and I love the apostles’ response that basically said, “We have more important things to do.” The apostles were on a mission to spread the gospel, and they were the ones who needed to do it as followers of Jesus during his time on earth. But they also recognized the need to solve this issue and to keep providing for the disenfranchised, so they appointed seven godly men to fill this role.
This passage highlights the different parts of the church body. The apostles knew they couldn’t fulfill all the needs of the church. They had a time sensitive mission to share the good news, and they came to the conclusion that they needed to delegate the food distribution program. Likewise, I don’t believe everyone has to become a foster parent or adopt. However, I would like to point out that the church was of the same heart and mind. They were all selling their possessions and providing resources for the poor whether or not they were the seven in leadership or doing some other work. They were meeting different needs, but they all had the same mentality of obeying God and loving others. It wasn’t just the seven doing all the work by themselves. They were the leaders of a program that was flourishing with the rest of the church’s help.
There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. So while you may be called to another ministry other than foster care, you should still have a heart and mind for the disenfranchised living among us. Ideally it’s the church’s responsibility to take care of the needy. As a member of the church, whether you are in leadership or working behind scenes, think about how you can respond to the command to take care of the marginalized. Will you deliver care packages to widows? Will you offer support to a friend that’s doing foster care or going through an adoption? Will you give financially? Will you pray? It’s okay that we don’t all choose this path, but we can all still join in the responsibility of taking care of the widows and orphans nevertheless.
Let me leave you with a few more verses as scripture speaks for itself.
Psalm 68:5 “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
Psalm 82:3 “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”
Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”