Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Widows and Orphans: Thoughts on Compassion

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“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…Religion 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 1:22 & 27

 Tenth Avenue North is a Christian band whose music speaks powerful truth.   A few months ago my son and I went to see them in concert.  The lead singer, Mike Donehey, is not only a great musician, but also a gifted speaker.  Before the concert, he spoke passionately about the importance of serving the needy.  He highlighted a ministry that connects impoverished children with monthly sponsors.  Mike explained that sponsoring a child is sometimes the only thing that keeps him/her from being sold into slavery.  A human trafficker will approach unsuspecting parents in extreme poverty and offer to give them money and take their child to get a “better life” in the city.  The well-meaning parents accept the money, thinking they are helping their child and the rest of the family at the same time.  However, unbeknownst to the parents, the “better life” in the city is actually a life of prostitution.  After sharing this, Mike asked the crowd to consider sponsoring a child, costing just under $40 per month.  The funds cover the cost of food, schooling, clothing and other necessities.  He ended his sharing by saying:  “You don’t need to pray about whether or not to show compassion to widows and orphans because we already know God wants us to do it.”  His directness may make you squirm, but there is no denying the truth of his words.

There are many worthy organizations that offer the option of child sponsorship including Compassion International, World Vision, Children of Grace, Macedonian Outreach and City Impact.  If you don’t already sponsor a child, consider looking into it.  Your monthly giving makes a world of difference to a child and a family in need.

Recently I heard a sermon online by Pastor Jim Wallis.  In it, he describes volunteering at a shelter for the homeless when he was a young man new to the faith.  He loved arriving early for the prayer time before serving the long line of hungry people waiting outside.   As those volunteering bowed their heads, an old woman with a deep faith would lead out with soulful prayers that always ended with: “Lord, we know that you’ll be coming through this line today, so help us to treat you well.”  Wallis was struck by the woman’s understanding of Matthew 25:40: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”    She knew that when we serve those in need, we are serving Jesus.

With this story ringing in my ears, my family and I decided to participate in a Coat Give Away at City Team Ministries in Oakland in December.  A family of four came through the line with a boy and a girl who were probably 6 and 8.  As I helped the mom comb through the racks for her daughter, the little girl spied a sparkly pink fleece sweatshirt.  Delight shined in her eyes as I helped her try it on.  The sweatshirt fit her perfectly, but had no growing room.  Her mom stood alternately smiling and looking anxious.  It was cute, but not particularly warm.  Pulling a heavier coat from the rack, I held it out:  “This one looks good, do you want to try it?”  It was thick; well made and had plenty of room for growth.  Relieved, the mom thanked me.   Her daughter unzipped the sparkly sweatshirt and started handing it back to me until I stopped her:  “You know what?  That sweatshirt looks so cute on you, I think you need to keep both.”  Gratitude and disbelief flooded their eyes.   Their smiles could have lit up the whole room.  As I walked them out, they were given bag lunches, blankets and a small care package.  The whole family left with warm coats, but I probably felt the best of all of them.  It cost me a Saturday morning, nothing more.

Let me stop you before you think I volunteer in homeless shelters every weekend.  Serving the needy feels awkward and uncomfortable for me.  I don’t know how to do it well or how to fit it into my schedule regularly.  I’m not gifted in it naturally, but I am trying to grow.  I’ve committed to praying and asking God how He wants to show compassion through me.  The rest is up to Him.  I wonder what would happen if each follower of Jesus did one act of compassion consistently.  I think the effects could be astounding.

Compassion is contagious.  Once you start serving, you want to do it more.  When you share what you’re doing with others, they want to join you.   Beth Moore says “Social consciousness beckons each of us across the board, but the ways we could respond are as varied as our holy passions…. God is practical.  He doesn’t ask us to do what doesn’t matter.  What seems a drop in the bucket to you is a sip from the wellspring of life to someone about to thirst to death.  Let’s muster the courage to ask Him to show us who to help and how. True religion is all hands on deck and all heads out of the sand. The mystery is that there, we often find our own healing and fulfilling” (James:  Mercy Triumphs p. 86).

Take a moment to post your thoughts and ideas about compassion.  Just click on the number in the circle to the right of this post’s title above to enter your reply.

Where do you serve or want to serve?  How do you find the time? How have you seen God bless you as you’ve shown compassion to the needy?  Let’s encourage each other to live out this scripture!

Below are the lyrics to a song about compassion by Audio Adrenaline called “Kings and Queens.”  You can also click on the link at the bottom to hear it and watch the music video.  I hope it will bless you and motivate you to serve the needy joyfully!

“Kings & Queens”

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me

Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve

On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun

These could be our daughters and our sons

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating

I know my God won’t let them be defeated

Every child has a dream to belong and be loved


Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in Your majesty

When we love, when we love the least of these

Then they will be brave and free

Shout your name in victory

When we love when we love the least of these

When we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again

Help us to remember when

We were only children hoping for a friend

Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten

Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open


If not us who will be like Jesus

To the least of these

If not us tell me who will be like Jesus

Like Jesus to the least of these

Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in your majesty

When we love, when we love the least of these

Then they will be brave and free shout your name in victory

We will love we will love the least of these

We will love the least of these

We will love the least of these

We will love the least of these

We will love the least of these

We will love the least of these

Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at

One thought on “Widows and Orphans: Thoughts on Compassion

  1. I feel so honored that God has given me the honor of extending the “godly touch” to many widows who are now a part of my daily life. With two moms who have moved close to me since they’ve been widowed and very close friends who have lost their husbands, they all have one thing in common. Young or old, they miss the human touch. It is amazing what a simple hug can do for a woman feeling lonely after being married for a long time. My mom and dad were married 72 years! It is hard to imagine the dawning of each day for my mom without the warm embrace of my dad. It doesn’t seem like much to give hugs and smiles away and yet it can change the course of a day from dreary to sunny for someone else.


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