On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 54: Widow and Orphan

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27 RSV).

Stewards are wise in how they give to those in need. Giving to those in need without wisdom and insight may lead to even greater poverty. I have talked before about giving to the hungry poor on the streets of the city. I used to offer a food coupon from a local fast-food chain as a gift to those who asked for money when they said they needed to eat. I’ve changed my approach. Now I invite the brother or sister in want to that restaurant to eat with me. On most occasions, the invitations are turned down by the supposedly hungry beggars. It takes wisdom and insight to discriminate between the poor and the manipulator.

Among all those whose needs demand our interest, it is the widow and the orphan who have the strongest claims on our stewardship. The holy Apostle James: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. How does God care for a family left behind because of accident, war or medical problem?

God does not send miraculous manna from heaven as He did for the Israelites in the wilderness. He does not perform a miracle by sending ravens with food as He did for St. Elias. God rather performs a miracle on human hearts. That miracle is the dismissing of selfishness, the opening of the fountain of kindness.

God tests the love of His beloved stewards by giving to them the responsibility of care for those left bereft of the head of the family: the widow and orphan. As in every other act of stewardship and kindness to someone in need, the action taken is not simply one toward that person – it is an act of kindness directed to Christ Himself.

It is our obligation, not simply as financial stewards who care for that which is God’s, but simply as Orthodox Christians to be mothers and fathers to the families that are without. There are so many such families these days. Deaths of the head of the household in war and on the streets of our cities have become common. Acts of kindness need to match the need. 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

 This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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