It was late at night as my taxi made its way from the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica to the small hotel where I was staying. I was hungry, and after I checked in I made my way to a nearby restaurant. As I walked the short distance, I noticed that the streets were filled with youth, say, from ages 7 to 13 or 14. They were dirty and poorly dressed, and they seemed to be milling around with nowhere to go. Naturally, I was a bit uncomfortable.
“Who are all those kids on the street?” I asked, and by the look I received, I quickly realized this was not a question I should have asked. “They are street kids,” was the curt reply.
In most major cities of the world there are thousands of children without homes or parents. Some have been abandoned by their parents, some are orphans, and a few have chosen that way of life rather than live with the discipline of an established care facility.
Of all those whom God has compassion and care for, there are two groups which seemingly head the list: widows and orphans. And often the Bible mentions them at the same time. What do the two have in common? Plenty! Both have been left in the world by someone who loved them. Both are enjoined by sorrow, and both are victims who often suffer extreme hardships.
Long ago the psalmist wrote that God would be a father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows. While it is true that God’s heart is touched by the plight of widows and orphans, it is also clear that He works through people and that He expects us to help provide for those who are in need–something most would prefer not to face.
Perhaps nothing more clearly demonstrates the baseness of human nature than the greed of those who take advantage of widows and orphans. Even Job, long ago, described how wealthy men took advantage of widows. He described greedy men, saying, “Even the donkeys of the poor and fatherless are taken. Poor widows must surrender the little they have as a pledge to get a loan” (Job 24:3, LB).
Under the law of Moses, widows and orphans were given protection, at least legally. Deuteronomy 24:17 says, “Justice must be given to migrants and orphans and you must never accept a widow’s garment in pledge of her debt.”(LB)
In the New Testament Paul instructed that widows who were older women and had no family to care for them were to be provided for by the church (1 Timothy 5:1-16). Apparently regular financial help was made available so they could maintain their dignity and live without begging.
Today we have government programs, at least we have them in many parts of the world, but have we, as a group of believers, ignored the plight of those who are widows and orphans? To bring home the issue, may I ask what your church does for widows or those who have no parents? Not much, in all probability.
Was Paul’s concern only that they be kept off the street and not be forced into begging or prostitution as is sometimes the plight of homeless women? Or was Paul also thinking of a support system, of loving care as part of the family of God?
Is it strange, really, that the pain of widows and the pain of orphans run parallel to each other? It shouldn’t be. Families are the driveshaft of society, and that is well and good. Yet when we exclude those who don’t quite fit into the mold of our families, it is a tragedy which not only reflects on our character but besmirches the mandate of the Father whom we serve. Widows and orphans are very much with us today. They are not “everyone’s” responsibility. They are mine. They are yours. They are ours.
Resource Reading: 1 Timothy 5
Text: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – August 18, 2017