By Royce U. Deberry
Today, much is said of those who are “less fortunate” than us. Usually, when we use this phrase, we are refer-ring to those who are physically or mentally handicapped, or those who are homeless, or those out of work, or those who are financially deprived, or a host of others. However, I believe there is a large group (and it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds) that is truly “less fortunate” the orphans and/or the fatherless.
However, considering there is nothing new under the sun, we must realize that this problem existed in Bible times. Much is said in both the Old Testament and the New Testament about orphans (or the fatherless). Note the following passages Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 24:17,19-22; Proverbs 23:10; Lamentations 5:1-3; Jeremiah 22:3; Psalms 82:3; 68:5; 10:14; Isaiah 10:1-3; Hebrews 12:8-9; James 1:27. If God devoted that much time and space to a particular subject, it must be important.
In the wonderful wisdom of God, he provided a way by which children could be brought into this world. When a man and a woman come together in the marriage relationship, and a child is conceived, both are responsible for this act. And by the way, both are responsible to see that this child is cared for, provided for, trained and nurtured; not only in the physical aspects, but more importantly, in the spiritual needs. Some have concluded today, that the mother is the only one who plays an iatrical part in the child’s life, but this is not true. It is true that the mother has an important role to play in the life of the child, but so does the father. From a biblical perspective, the father’s role is just as important and weighty. It is the father’s responsibility to provide for the family, to be the head of the house, to guide and direct the home, to be a steadying influence, and to set a godly example (1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 5:23; 6:4; Col. 3:21). God holds the father responsible as the head of the household. No one can do the father’s job as effectively as the father.
When we think of an orphan today, we think of a child that has neither father or mother. But in the biblical sense, more often it referred to one that was fatherless. There are several ways by which a child can be orphaned or become fatherless: by the death of the father, or irresponsibility and lack of commitment, or by divorce. The last two ways are the most terrible and devastating. With these two ways, the load is usually altogether shifted upon the shoulders of the mother and sometimes upon the children themselves.
And then there are children who are fatherless when their father is alive, well and living with them. He may be there in person, but not in spirit. He may provide food, shelter, and clothing, but he fails to teach, instruct, and discipline them. Paul in Hebrews 12:8-9 says that a child who is not disciplined by his father is actually fatherless. How terrible, to have a father who is no father. Look around us in the world, we have many of these.
In Old Testament times, God was concerned with and made provisions for the fatherless. The children of Israel were to tithe and the Levites, the sojourner, the widow, and the fatherless were to benefit (Deut. 14:28-29). When they would reap the harvest, they were to leave some for the sojourners, the widows, and the fatherless (Deut. 24:19-22). The fatherless were not to be denied justice (Deut. 24:17). They were not to be defrauded of what God had given to them (Prov. 23:10). The fatherless were not to be oppressed nor deprived of kindness or compassion (Zech. 7:8-10). Surely God was manifesting his love, kindness, and protection for the fatherless.
Likewise in New Testament times, although there are not as many Scripture references as in the Old Testament, God continued the principle of showing mercy, compassion, and protection to those who were truly less fortunate. We should be impressed with the “needs” of the father-less. All children have many needs as they proceed toward independence and adulthood. Those of us who had loving and caring fathers realize how much they gave and contributed to our development. Our needs were recognized and fulfilled. We need to count the many blessings that were bestowed upon us, and then follow the teaching of Jesus, “All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them” (Matt. 7:12).
Most of us are acquainted with the teaching of Jesus in Luke 10:25-37 concerning the Good Samaritan. But knowledge of and/or the ability to quote from memory this passage is of little value without application. We can make application of this wonderful teaching when it comes to the fatherless. Look around you . . . there are the fatherless in the church, in our neighborhoods, in our towns and cities . . . quite liter-ally, they are everywhere. The doing of God’s law is connected with inheriting eternal life. There is something we must do in order to manifest our love for our fellowman. Love is more than words, it must be proved by our actions (1 John 3:18). Remember Jesus’ conclusion: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37). Yes, there is something we must do for the fatherless.
In James 1:27, James says, “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows, in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” We tend to understand the Scriptures in light of modern day definitions. To many today visit means to stop in, check on them, chat with them, and see them for a short period of time. But actually it means to take care of their needs, what they might be lacking. It might entail providing food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities. Also, it may require us to give more than just money or things; we may have to give of our self and our time. But is that not what serving our fellow man is all about giving ourself to them and for their good.
Children learn by example. In a world filled with substitutions for the home God intended (one husband and one wife raising their children), it is imperative as Christians we live lives in a way that the fatherless of our world can see the proper example. They need to see this to have an example in their life of a home as God would have it.
Just as Jesus “advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52), children today must do the same. But those who are orphaned or fatherless are at a disadvantage. It may not be the responsibility of the church, but it is the individual Christian’s responsibility (Gal. 6:10). Therefore, we must be aware of those around us and seek an opportunity to aid them. We must help them to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Remember the words of Jesus, “Go, and do thou likewise.”
Guardian of Truth XLI: 12 p. 18-19
June 19, 1997