Do you practice your faith? On a practical level, do you actually DO the good deeds–the actions that evidence your heartfelt belief in Jesus and in what He teaches–on a regular basis, whether or not it is inconvenience, and even if it is difficult?
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
Life is frequently quite simple, in the sense that what we need to do is what is obvious. I have an elderly widowed aunt. She was the life-long wife of my beloved uncle, and is now in her mid-eighties. They had both wanted children and had tried for many years, but back then in the sixties fertility research was not what it is today, and those unable to conceive or carry to term did not have the options available to us. As a result, she is now alone.
She is an intelligent woman. In Germany she studied medicine, but here in the United States she went to work as the Personal Assistant to the Chief Thoracic Surgeon at Northwestern University in Chicago. She studied Spanish later in life, and even wrote and published a book about her life with my uncle and their many adopted strays. After he passed away she tried to keep active, retaining her driver’s license and getting her own personal computer–an accomplishment for someone of her generation!
But now, unfortunately, the realities of her years are catching up with her. She isn’t as able as she once was, and as her driving abilities diminish the changing nature of her neighborhood has isolated her. Her friends, likewise, are leaving her behind as they pass into the next life, and increasingly, she is alone. Yet she lives in Chicago, some seventy or so miles away from me. I do drive into town once a week, but it is to another part of the City on business, and I have to rush because our daughter gets out of school at 3:45pm in Indiana. Thus, I have a dilemma, as is frequently the case when God calls on us to put our faith into actions. How can I meet my aunt’s needs while not abandoning my obligations to my own immediate family?
The interesting thing about helping others is that Jesus never said it would be either easy or convenient, and it is invariably at the least convenient moments when the needs of others become obvious. Yet our foremost duty is to Christ, because we have an earnest desire for Him to someday tell us, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)
So, how have I resolved this situation in my own life? Right now, I have taken my husband’s advice and make it a point to call her every Sunday afternoon, whether life is busy in our home at that particular moment or not. And invariably, she picks up right away, almost as if she is waiting for me to call. We talk as long as I am able, for hours if I can, but even a shorter conversation seems to brighten her day. As her condition deteriorates I will have to make a way to visit her regularly.
Invariably, as we make a point of reaching out to bless others, we ourselves are blessed. Even once the effort far outweighs any tangible reciprocation the other person is able to give us in return, God sees our obedience. “But do not forget to do good…for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)
Help us visit orphans and widows–those in real need–and keep ourselves unspotten by this world. Amen.