Summary: Ministry to the poor, the orphan, and the widow is about joining the work of God in his favorite field. Meaning and satisfaction in life don’t come from striving, it comes from loving. The gospel message is a message of love. Loving God means loving peop
Something is Missing
God is passionate about orphans
The scriptures speak of a God who cares for the alien, orphan, and widow. When you look, these passages (like Psalm 68:5 and James 1:27) come jumping off the page. God speaks about orphans and widows as a unique and special group of people. Somehow, I missed this…
Doing all the right things
I was a pastor for 10 years before I “got” this message. By a lot of outward measures, I was very successful. Our services were packed with people, our missions trips were always full of students, and I could feel God’s hand of blessing on me and the ministry. I was doing all the “right” things to be a good pastor, but something was missing.
My Russian encounter
In 1997, I found that missing piece. My wife, Emily, and I spent two weeks in Russia leading a camp for orphans. For the first time—ever—I felt as though God was literally ministering through my hands and feet. It seemed that every day I was looking into the eyes of orphaned kids, and the eyes of Jesus were staring back at me. After this trip, I cracked my Bible open, looking for what God had to say about these kids…I was surprised that as a “pastor” I had missed something so important to God’s Heart.
The life God blesses
God spoke to my heart with two life-changing truths. First, he is deeply in love with the orphan, the poor, and the widow. As I said, I powerfully sensed God loving these kids through me. Second, I realized how much joy there was when I ministered so close to God’s heart. I tangibly felt his pleasure and approval. This was the life that God promises to bless—the lives of those who are the hands and feet of Christ to a special group of people.
Who is in God’s Heart?
Over 60 times…
Did you know that three special groups of people come up over 60 times in the Bible: aliens, orphans, and widows. They are his constant concerns, and he reveals his character through the promises made to them:
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. Psalm 68:5-6
It’s about justice
Bono, lead singer of U2, nailed this issue at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast. God is concerned about justice, and promises to ensure justice:
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.
It’s about blessing
God also promises blessing for those who care for the alien, orphan, and widow:
At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
They are the people on His heart, and the people He wants on our hearts!
What are the Fields?
It shouldn’t surprise us that God takes direct action for the fatherless. However, in my search through the Bible, I encountered yet another special way that God cares for orphans. He clearly instructs his people to set aside a portion of their “field” and dedicate it to feeding the orphan, alien, and widow. The boundary of those “fields of the fatherless” were places where any orphan, widow, or stranger could find provision. Here was God’s plan:
When you reap your harvest in your filed, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
This boundary was so important, if you violated it, you transgressed against God.
Do not move an ancient boundary stone, or encroach on the fields of the fatherless. For their Defender is strong; He will take up their case against you.
Why would God do this?
I believe that God established the fields for a couple very important reasons. First and foremost, the fields ensured the poor would have their every need met by God’s people. I think this is key! God uniquely calls his people to meet the needs of the poor. Second, the fields build relationships between the poor and the church—providing a way for them to be welcomed, accepted, and integrated into the church. Finally, the fields are a way that god reveals his character to orphans, widows, and aliens—but also to the church. By studying how God wants us to care for the poor, we understand something very important about his heart—and our earthly ministry to others.