Read: James 1:27 NRSV
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.
This week we have read a small passage of the book of James that reminds us that the fulfillment of God’s will requires true and active listening which will lead to action. So what are these important actions? Verse 27 is James’ thesis, and perhaps the thesis of the entire bible. “Care for the orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” To care for orphans and widows is meant to be taken literally, but it’s also important to remember that orphans and widows were the most vulnerable people in James’ society. They would have to depend almost completely on the charity of others. The 21st-century equivalent certainly includes widows and orphans, but also any vulnerable people who cannot provide for themselves, who have no place to live, who are fleeing from persecution, or who do not have the mental capability of living alone. These are the actions that are produced from true faith.
“God’s Word teaches a very hard, disturbing truth. Those who neglect the poor and the oppressed are really not God’s people at all—no matter how frequently they practice their religious rituals nor how orthodox are their creeds and confessions.”
-Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger