Orphan Care has become a very popular topic of discussion in churches today, thanks in large part to organizations like CAFO and others who have been fighting to keep this issue front and center in the minds of believers. There have been countless campaigns and sermons in thousands of churches across the country.
As a result, orphan care seems like a new endeavor for many in the church. In the midst of this, there is one thing I continue to hear as I talk to Pastors and churchgoers that is troubling. Some will say, “I’m not sure this is the right time for me to get involved” or others answer ,“I am still praying about if that is what God is calling me to do.”
At the root of both of these statements lies a false assumption that so many of us make: orphan care is optional for followers of Christ. We assume orphan care is a specific calling that God only gives to a few special people. Biblically, orphan care is not described this way. It is shown as an overflow of the Father’s heart and is more often assumed rather than commanded.
We see in passages like Deuteronomy 10:17-18 and Psalm 68:4-6 that God associates his care for the fatherless as an integral part of his deity and associates his actions of justice with his special love for those who have no father to provide for them. We see in passages like Psalm 82:2-4 and Ezekiel 22:6-7 that God points to Israel’s neglect of the fatherless as one of the main reasons for His judgment upon them. Even the companions of Job, as they are seeking for an answer for the calamity that he is facing, point to his mistreatment of the fatherless as a possible explanation for his situation. (Job 22:7-10)
As God carefully chose the earthly relationships he would use to depict the way he would relate to his people, he chose the metaphor of adoption. God uses orphans, children living without the love and protection of a father, as a metaphor to describe the spiritual state of humanity.
As Jesus foreshadowed his ascension to his disciples, he pointed them to the coming Holy Spirit and encouraged them that he would not leave them as orphans. (John 14:16-20). Finally, passages like Ephesians 1:3-6 and Galatians 4:3-7 remind believers of the power and significance of our own adoption.
There are many other passages that could be referenced, but each of these point to the fact that God’s heart for the fatherless and call for his church to imitate this heart are universal. If the God you worship holds the fatherless in disregard, you are not worshipping the God of the bible.
As believers, we can not chose whether to care for the orphan any more than our Heavenly Father can. It would be inconsistent with His nature to ignore the fatherless. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a youth challenged me that any prayer for how to proceed when the action was either clearly prohibited or clearly commanded by God was ignorant and pointless.
It is a kin to my three year old son continuing to ask for something after I have already clearly said no. So the content of our prayers should not be if we should get involved in orphan care, but rather how should we get involved. If this were the approach of the church, then the orphan crisis we face today would look drastically different.