Who Are “the Orphan and the Widow” Today?

Throughout the Bible, God, Jesus, Psalmists, prophets, etc. refer to God’s compassion for the orphan and the widow. From a modern standpoint, one might wonder why these two constantly go hand-in-hand. Understanding what they represent helps us fathom God’s heart for the marginalized.

In the patriarchial times when the Bible was written, a person without a father, husband or son did not have a caretaker. Hence, widows and orphans were basically helpless and at the mercy of others’ charity. Again and again, God commands the Hebrews to care for them and reiterates His love for them.

Thanks mostly to our government programs, widows and orphans are not the most pitiful people in society anymore. If the events of scripture unfolded today, these two group names would surely be replaced. Some options might include old folks with no family or a family who doesn’t visit…those addicted to hard drugs that have/will ruin their lives…those serving prison sentences…those who are homeless or living in extreme poverty…immigrants…women and children being abused…the list goes on. It’s also the people we avert our eyes from, hoping they won’t come close to us or talk to us–those who look dirty, sketchy, “not all there.”

Some may take issue with my “modern conversions” because of the implications. Orphans and widows faced their circumstances through no fault of their own, whereas most of my examples played a small or large role in their own outcome. Here, we reach an impasse where many Christians draw a line and justify apathy or even contempt. “That person chose to stick the needle in their arm; that person could pull themselves up by the bootstraps; let them lie in the beds they made. God helps those who help themselves.” Many more Christians never see–I mean, really SEE–the marginalized clearly enough to even have those thoughts. The groups I mentioned, along with all the others in our world suffering from pain, oppression, and dire need, struggle for acknowledgement in the tiny boxes that hold the contents of our self-absorbed minds and quaint lives. In many ways, in many places, the rough edges of prophetic Christianity have been filed down to leave a pretty religion that only requires church attendance and tithes (or, for some, saying a prayer over Thanksgiving dinner and holding some vague belief in God).

Pursuing God’s heart, following Jesus, and living in the Spirit means going above and beyond–above and beyond ourselves to really see our neighbors, including and especially the marginalized–going above and beyond our superiority complexes and judgement to realize others are not unworthy of our help and love–going above and beyond our lives of comfort and privilege to make a Kingdom-shaped difference in our communities. We must go above and beyond the motions.

Jesus, the embodiment of God, also ministered primarily to the marginalized. And unlike the widow and the orphan, many of them were lying in the beds they made. Jesus had mercy for the Hebrew collecting taxes for Rome and likely skimming off the top, the woman who had married five husbands, the woman caught in adultery. He had little patience, however, for the religious elites. The main thing about them that was so repulsive to Jesus was their condescending arrogance. They knew the letter of the Law of Moses but disregarded the spirit of it; they were adamant about rules and regulations but had forgotten the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” and God’s preference for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the foreigner…and, of course, the orphan and widow. Some of us Christians resemble the religious elites far too closely–caring about our religious traditions more than our fellow human beings.

I’m thankful God’s grace doesn’t carry the footnote, “*Unless the person screwed up of their own accord.” I’m thankful He doesn’t make us lie in the beds we make. And I’m thankful that He always has and always will care for the marginalized, whether it’s orphans, widows, or anyone else in need.

Thanks for reading! What groups do you see as modern day orphans and widows? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. I have a YT channel with two videos, and I’m editing one today to go up this weekend about the letter vs. the spirit of the Law. The last video is on my homepage and posted below. It would mean so much to me if you watched and/or subscribed!

11 comments

  1. Jesus loves all people and died for all people. If you hearts are filled with the love of Jesus, then we will understand what Mother Teresa said about the people she ministered to- “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise” that is what I aspire to doing, seeing Jesus in people I encounter

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lily!

    I don’t know what happened, but I seem to have lost my connection with you. But I saw your icon on another blog and chased you down again.

    I am enthused for your post. Good one.

    I particularly like make-our-own-bed thoughts. I am glad you went there with it. Very thoughtful stuff.

    As for others on the list… the sojourners are often listed with the widows and orphans. Sojourners are generally men, and or have a man as head of household (the social security of the ancients) but sojourners are not citizens of the country in which they live and as such have little or no rights. A lot of sojourners are/were rich and powerful despite this, but vulnerable nonetheless. And plenty are not.

    In today’s world, the homeless approximate the sojourner in the closest sense.

    That said, and there are lots of people who are vulnerable LIKE widows, orphans, and sojourners of varying kinds and degree. The particular vulnerability may be temporary, but real all the same.

    But here is where I plug this stuff in for even more deep theological consideration – Genesis 1 and 2.

    When God created the world, he made the humans utterly and completely vulnerable and naive. He also made us to bear his image. That vulnerability plays a very important part in image bearing – and thus the design of creation. There is something about that vulnerability which is on target for us who follow Jesus.

    AND, I note, that when such vulnerability and such vulnerable people are valued, they then receive the gift of LOVE from the rest. That dynamic draws something special out of the rest of us – actually out of other vulnerable people too. And that is heavenly. It is soul and character shaping. It is spiritual. It is spiritual formation.

    Let us ponder these things!

    Thanx for sharing this!!!

    God bless…

    X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, X! Good to see you again. I gotta go catch up on your blog. Glad to see you are still using a platform to advocate for the homeless.

      I like your musings, especially where you allude to God making us vulnerable yet in His image–the two somehow correlate. And other people’s vulnerability can bring out something heavenly, divine from us. Deep thoughts to ponder! Maybe that divine ‘thing’ that vulnerability brings out of us is akin to the steadfast love God feels for us, as vulnerable as we are compared to Him. A baby is about as vulnerable as humans come, and the love a parent feels for their child is immeasurable (usually). Hmm…deep thoughts.

      Like

  3. I just published my latest on James 1:19-27. I’ve also published a two-part essay (linked in my article on James 1:19-27). I agree with you that modern Christians have lost sight of the single most important factor – our social mission and duty to reach out and help those who are less fortunate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and hope you are able to hop on over and read my articles and share them as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think because Christ remains the same and God does not change that widows and orphans remain the same in scripture. The Bible was written inspired by the Holy Spirit with the knowledge of all ages to come. I think both groups certainly can relate to some of the concerns you mentioned. Drugs, the homeless, etc. That being said, we do see in scripture the need to take care of the poor, that has never changed. If we are able, we should use our means to help others. Jesus helped and reached out to many people like you shared, and certainly we are not told to only help the orphaned and widowed.

    It’s amazing how sinners who are poor, on drugs, prostitutes, those the Pharisees would have nothing to do with, these people become some of the most beautiful believers when they receive the truth and Christ. Like the wedding parable, those who didn’t have time for the wedding, the messengers then invited those in the streets. 🙂 We are to be loving to everyone and no one is to be restricted from being shown and receiving that love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right that we are told in scripture to care for the poor, and that has never changed. We are told to care for all sorts of people! And going off what you said about sinners becoming the most beautiful believers, I’m reminded of the exchange where Jesus says that sick people are the ones who need a doctor. We need to bring ‘the doctor’ to ‘the sick people’ of this broken world! But of course, it’s important to reiterate that we Jesus followers have our recurring illnesses, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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