LÖHE ON JAMES 1:27

widows & orphans kaethe kollwitzReligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

Even secular people regard looking after orphans and widows in their distress highly and as laudable indeed. Yet even more important is that God our Father – the eternal judge of all – recons this as pure and faultless, just as keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. Obviously this judgement of pure and faultless does not mean that this religion is without sin and that it is perfect. If in the eyes of the most holy God even his servants are not perfectly holy, pure and faultless nor the heavens spotless in his judgment, how could this human service be beyond critique? No – the apostle probably wants to make the following clear: If you are motivated by God’s holy word to serve widows and orphans with love and sacrifice, that you receive them caringly and you keep yourself free from worldly pollution then this godly work of the Holy Spirit will surely be acceptable in God’s eyes and he will cleanse these works from their adhering sinful stains by the holy blood of his Son Jesus Christ and declare your good deeds as pure and faultless in his judgement. Doesn’t this motivate you to follow this apostolic admonition to take good care of widows and orphans in their distress? Too often in this world of ours widows and orphans are treated shamefully and are discriminated like outcasts. They are put down or pushed aside. They experience no justice and have no right to fair treatment. Their poverty and lowliness is misused by the evildoers to maltreat and exploit them. You however are called by the Holy Spirit to be their advocate and helper, their father and brother, serving them with joyful sacrifice even if it costs you pleasures of this world. That is the wonderful life of Christians, which has its worth and reward in itself. It is tremendously gratifying to do the right thing and to be joyful in the assurance that you’re walking in the ways of the Lord and doing his will.

Teach me o God to do good and strive for the very best and never tire in faithfulness either. Now is the time and it is passing so quickly. Even if the good done seems small – it’s good pleasing you and that’s what counts.  

Make me aware of the big harvest for which we are sowing in hope. Whatever we do – let it be done for you and yours. Even if we don’t gain praise here, you remain gracious beyond measure! (Philipp Friedrich Hiller, 1699-1769)

This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Wednesday following the fifth Sunday after Easter: Rogate. It is found on Pg. 197 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu!   (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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