Why Care for Orphans?
Why Should I Care for Orphans?
Scripture is rife with references to the orphan. In some situations, God demonstrates his love for the orphan (fatherless). In others, He reveals the sin of others in that they did not look to the needs of the orphan. Yet, in other verses, he deliberately commands his followers to love the orphan and take care of him or her. Lastly, His adoption of those who love him consummates His love for us, and sets an example of the ultimate orphan provision: a home.
How Does God Demonstrate His Love for the Orphan?
God makes it clear throughout Scripture that He has a special place in his heart for orphans (the fatherless). Note in the following verses how God promises to care and provide for those in need.
Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.
Psalm 10:14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Psalm 146:9 The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Hosea 14:3 Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
How Does God Use the Lack of Care for the Orphan to Reveal Sin?
God and His followers frequently use the care for those in need as a measuring stick for righteous behavior. Often, this takes place in the negative, revealing sinful hearts.
Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Job 6:27 You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend.
Job 22:9 And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless.
Job 24:3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey and take the widow’s ox in pledge.
Psalm 94:6 They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless
Isaiah 1:23 Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.
Isaiah 10:2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.
Jeremiah 5:28 and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
Ezekiel 22:7 In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.
Malachi 3:5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
What Are the Commands to Care for the Orphan?
In several places in Scripture, God directly commands His people to look after those in need, including the fatherless.
Deuteronomy 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
Deuteronomy 24:21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
Deuteronomy 26:13 Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.
Additionally, God also calls on this who love Him to seek justice and fairness for those who cannot attain it themselves. Orphans have and still would fall into this category.
Exodus 22:22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.
Proverbs 23:10 [ Saying 11 ] Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Deuteronomy 24:17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.
There is one clear place where God sums up all these points in one New Testament verse:
James 1:27 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.
This verse is not a command, but a suggestion as to one way of behaving that is honorable to God. Nevertheless, we through this verse, we can see God’s love and care for the orphan through its inclusion, the presumption that those who do not follow this command are not pure or faultless, as well as the implication that His followers should heed this example.
How Does God’s Consummate Adoption of His Followers Direct Our Care for Orphans?
Adoption is the consummation of love for orphans. It is often seen as the pinnacle. God did not see it as enough to simply provide for the physical needs of His people. He adopted those whom He foreknew into His family.
Ephesians 1:4-6 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 hepredestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Those who belong to God’s adopted family are called to imitate him:
Ephesians 5:1-2 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
There are several examples of other areas where God first sets the example and His people follow. He initiated the vertical example and we follow with a horizontal execution. For example:
He Loved us. –> We love other people.
He had mercy on us, despite our sin. –> We have mercy on those who sin again us.
It only stands to reason, therefore, that if God has adopted us into His family, we should seek to adopt others.
It is not necessarily the call of every Christian to become adoptive parents. However, Scripture clearly makes the connection to care for the orphan. If God’s ultimate plan for us as orphans was adoption, then we should seek God’s will for us in adoption, whether it be through the active role of adopting others or through the support of those whom God has called to adopt.
For more information or to see our links to external references, please visit the Global Orphan Care Resource Page.