As a child my definition of an orphan would be “a child whose mother and father had died.” Unfortunately, that limited definition followed me into adulthood. So consequentially, Bible verses such as James 1:27 were troubling to me. As a Christian, I certainly wanted my religion to be “pure and undefiled.” I have known plenty of widows in congregations where I’ve worshiped and members regularly provided meals, sent cards, made visits and helped in a variety of ways. But what about the orphans? I really didn’t know any. We had no local “orphan’s home,” so how was I supposed to fulfill God’s command to care for them?
Fortunately, my view broadened. By definition, an orphan is one “bereft of care.” Bereft isn’t a word we commonly use, but it means “deprived of” or “lacking.” One definition says that an orphan is a “minor bereft through death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents.” Jesus used this same word when he said in John 14:18 that He would not leave his disciples “orphans,” but would come to them.
Of course, a child who has lost his parents to death would be an orphan, but can we not broaden this term to include many more in our society? Think about children who have parents in prison or addicted to drugs/alcohol. Perhaps it is the child who is abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent. Might we know children who are orphaned in terms of spiritual care when parents neglect to share the word of God with them?
When the term, “orphan” is looked at in a broader sense, I believe we don’t have to look far to see them in our congregations, neighborhoods, and communities. So what can we do to care for an orphan? Here are a few suggestions for those who are lacking physical, emotional, educational, or spiritual care in your midst:
- Give financial support to families who want to adopt children.
- Take in foster children.
- Help provide back to school clothes and supplies.
- Take meals or a gift card to families who have foster/adopted children.
- Spend an afternoon teaching a child your favorite hobby or sport.
- Take a child to participate in a service project with your family or church group.
- Give a child a ride to church or to youth activities.
- Teach a child to read or tutor with homework after school.
- Bake special treats for those at a children’s home.
- Pray for those who work and care for orphans.
- Include a child in your family events or holidays.
- Organize or contribute to a food drive for a children’s home.
- Mentor “at-risk” children in an elementary school.
- Provide Christmas gifts and treats for children in need.
- Teach a child the Bible.
The list is endless! Unfortunately, there are countless children all around us who need Christians to step up to provide physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual care. Let us all open our eyes to see the “orphans” in our midst and work to have a religion that is “pure and undefiled.”