1. Last week we looked into the mirror to see if our religion or faith is real. We looked into God’s word and then we looked at ourselves to see if we reflect the image of a genuine believer.
2. James shares with us three marks, evidences or signs that our faith is authentic. The first one we talked about last week.
3. One sign of true faith is to keep a reign on our tongue or to control our tongue. Our tongues are to CONTROLLED by the Holy Spirit.
4. This week we consider the other two marks. And to help you remember all three - lets describe them as CONTROLLED, COMPASSIONATE, CLEAN. If you remember anything from these two messages - remember these three words - CONTROLLED, COMPASSIONATE, CLEAN. As said, we have talked about control last week.
5. And so let us consider the second mark. COMPASSIONATE. If our faith is true we will be compassionate.
6. James says that religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
a. We are to look after - the Greek word for this is episkeptomai. Jesus used this word in Matthew 25
Mat 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Mat 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
This word is translated as "visit" in the KJV - that we are to visit the orphans and the widows. The words means more than to simply make a social call. We are to visit them so that we may be aware of their needs and in order to take care of their needs.
b. In other words we are be concerned about them and have compassion for them that moves us to action.
7. The reason why this compassion is a mark of true religion is that this compassion is something that reflects the heart of God. Throughout the Bible, God cares for the orphans and the widows. He cares about those in distress and tells us to care for them.
a. And so, although James is talking about orphans and widows specifically, God calls us to care for all those in need
Deu 10:17-19 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
b. And this love is to be expressed in action
Deu 14:27-29 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
c. God says a couple of verses later
Deu 15:4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you,
d. Later he says in Deu 24:17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge
e. Things do not change in the New Testament. In Matt 25, from which we quoted Jesus says that when we provide for those in need we are providing for Him.
f. In fact our love for Him cannot be separated from our looking after, our loving, the poor and the needy.
g. And so James reminds the early Christians and he reminds us that we must continue to act in compassion. To all people but especially to other believers in need
Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
8. Does this mean we have to give, to look after, all people in distress? Are there not those who would become dependent on us or abuse us?
9. In our passage from 1 Timothy we receive some specific instructions that show we must use discernment in looking after widows. And we should use discernment in all acts of compassion.