This week has been a whoper. Studying the book of James in depth has been amazing, but it has also been challenging. Really challenging.
One thing that struck me big time was the reminder that God's word is meant to activate. It's not simply for inspiration and to make me feel good or touched. It is meant to change me. And if it doesn't change me then all my study time will produce is happy feelings. And happy feelings don't change the world. People who have allowed God to meddle in their lives, get in their business and challenge everything, change the world.
I want to be one those people. I don't want to live in self deception and think that simply reading God's word and doing a Bible study will produce fruit in my life. Fruit comes when I make a move and change things based on what I'm reading. Change happens in my life when I ask myself regularly, "how will I be different because of what I have just read today?"
So in light of that I was particularly struck with verse 27 of James chapter one.
"Pure and undefined religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
In the KJV the word fatherless is used instead of orphans. And as I read that I got to thinking about orphans. I don't personally know many true orphans. I do know people who have been orphaned but then have been adopted, and God has redeemed their childhoods because of that. But I was thinking of orphans in other countries, children you sponsor through charitable organizations. I don't know any of those children personally. But I do know plenty of fatherless people, I also know many spiritual orphans. As I pondered all this I decided to look up the word orphans or fatherless in the original language. (Blue Letter Bible is a great online resource for this.)
The word is actually translated as comfortless. Webster's dictionary tells me an orphan is not only someone who is lacking parents, but who is lacking protection; missing a teacher, or a guide. And the original Greek says an orphan is really one who is in need of comfort. So maybe a better understanding of this verse would be that true religion, or true relationship with God, is displayed by caring for those who are comfortless and in need of protection. What is most interesting about this is that the only other time this particular word is used in the Bible is by Jesus. That's right, Jesus, James's brother also speaks about the comfortless. The reference is John 14:18, when Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and tells his followers that he will not leave them comfortless.
I found myself challenged this week with two things: am I really being changed and transformed by the word of God in my life, and am I caring for the comfortless as a reflection of how God is changing me?
My prayer is that God would give me eyes to see the comfortless and inspiration to do something more than just notice them. Faith should have feet, it should prompt me to action.
Who can you think of that is need of comfort in your life? Let's move as James inspires us and truly care for them as Jesus would.