Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their-affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Pure religion. Pure. Without mixture. Standing alone. This is what we all strive for. This pure religion James spoke of is our driving motivation. It’s our quest at pleasing God. It is our most sacred obligation. And it is all about men.
When you look hard at what James is saying, you can realize that both groups of people mentioned are lacking one thing – men. The fatherless have no dad and the widows have no husband. There is a clear message being sent by James to the church about the important role men are to play in religion. In fact, the man’s role is vital to pure religion at its very core!
When children in our society do not have a father, two very common occurrences tend to take place: 1) They are simply pushed along through development by the single mother until they are adults, or 2) They are placed in the custody of the government, essentially becoming wards of the state. These children are left with-out the stability and oversight that only a man in the home is capable of providing. A December article in the Washington Times repeated what numerous reports and studies have shown: 15 million children (or 1 in 3) in America are living without a father (Rosiak, December 2012).
One-third! By belonging to the government through foster care, nearly 650,000 of those 15 million children are finding out that their dad does not care for them. Now, add this to the emotional trauma these kids are experiencing: half of children under five in foster care have developmental delays and 80% have emotional problems (childrensrights.org, Foster Care, 2013). According to Arrow Child and Family Ministry statistics, an astounding 80% of the prison population was once in foster care, and girls in foster care are 600% more likely to become pregnant before turning 21.
Why would I bring all these numbers up? Because I believe James knew what he was talking about when he said that pure religion was ministering to the fatherless and widows. The role that men play in the stability and future of the rest of the family cannot be measured. But we have said nothing about the widows! In 2009, according to the US Census Bureau, 976,000 women were widows in our nation. That is 976,000 women who do not have the support of a husband to care for them. 976,000 women who are lacking the stability that a working man gives to their minds. 976,000 women who can no longer rest their head on a man’s shoulder and feel the comfort that provides. James was definitely onto something.
What happens when men aren’t around? Is this really the doomsday scenario that I am making it out to be? It is obvious that the facts speak for themselves. When men are tragically killed, or worse, walk out on their families, the ripple effect does not end after the tears stop flowing. Young boys are learning to rely upon the government for their paychecks, instead of having the value of hard work instilled into them from their fathers. Third-party role models such as movie or sports stars become icons instead of dad. These popular figures more often than not have multiple relationships with many women, are often seen in court on drug and criminal charges, and rarely, if ever, give an image of a man submitted to God.
Likewise, young girls, having never experienced the innocent and pure touch of their fathers, reach out to immature and violent `men’, who want nothing more than to abuse and violate them.
What starts as a desire for affection turns into an unwanted pregnancy, or, in extreme cases, rape or abuse. If only a father had been there through the years to teach that girl what it feels like to be loved by a man! Additionally, with our black birth rates at 72% to unwed mothers, we are seeing the fruit of a society having prisons filled with boys who never once were told how men are to act. Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, male, female…it does not matter what demographic you fall into, the proof is all around us that the lack of men in our homes is creating a nightmare scenario for children and women.
James was calling the church to step into a role where a man does not exist – the fatherless and widows. The ideal situation is to have a man in the home. He would provide protection from outsiders, shelter from the elements, food for the stomach, and stability for the future. Instruction and correction would be swift and appropriate, and girls and boys would in turn become model citizens for the world to admire. In the absence of this man, stability becomes uncertainty, protection becomes every-man-for-himself, shelter becomes random and shifting; food becomes a craving, not satisfying; instruction is inadequate, and correction is often never experienced. Pure religion requires a man!
I Corinthians 11:3 tells us that the head of the man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man. It is in the Divine order that the man be guided by Christ. His actions, his speech, his thoughts – they are all to be derived from Christ. As an Army veteran, I learned very quickly the value of having someone over me. In everything that I did, I was accountable to someone else. They, in turn, were watching over me, ensuring that I developed into the soldier I needed to become. Every bit of my authority over others came from the man in charge of me. Without him, I had no authority. He could correct me when I was wrong and reward me when I was right. Then I, with the authority given to me, could do the same to those underneath me. What a comforting feeling for those beneath me to know that I was not the final all-in-all!
This chain-of-command works the exact same way in the kingdom of Christ. The woman relies upon the man to get his marching orders from Christ, and she, in turn, will pass those orders down to the children. What a comfort to the children to know that their mother is under subjection to their father. The wife takes great joy in knowing that her husband is led by Christ. As husbands and fathers, it is our responsibility (our greatest responsibility) to make sure that we are hearing from God. We must be in quiet, solitary prayer for God’s will. We must ensure we are taking time to hear from God about our families. It does not fall on the wife, but on us.
But let us take the man out of the equation. Now, without the wife receiving instructions from her husband about God’s will, she must now take on an added responsibility that hampers her from focusing on what she should be doing, leading the children. In addition to making sure they know their ABCs and 123s, mom must now also bear the burden of guiding the family. What should fall on the shoulders of a man acting as priest/husband/father now falls on her. The children, living under the stressful situation of uncertainty and pressure very often find themselves ignoring mother’s guidance and direction, choosing instead the path that looks easier and more enjoyable.
James knew that when the family falls apart, the community falls apart. And when the community falls apart, the nation falls apart. Why are we in the mess we are in as a nation? Men. Why are we in such fiscal debt? Men. Why are our prisons overcrowded? Men. Why can we not agree on a moral path? Men. If men would be in their rightful place, truly in tune with what God wants for their families, we would have strong fiscal policies, we would have boys becoming scientists and producers, instead of inmates and takers. Our morals would be established and enforced, not because the man chose what they would be, but because he received them from God.
What chance do we have to keep ourselves unspotted from the world if our very core of manly stability is compromised? How can we help our families turn away from jealously over their coworker’s promotion? How can we expect them to be strong enough not to click the link that will take them to pornography? How can we ensure our children will decide to stay out of debt and put food on their tables as adults? The answer is found in men. A strong man will do all the above and so much more. As the image of Christ, as the representative of our Savior here on Earth, men have a vital role to play in pure religion.
James tells us that when this role is missing, we should step in. Perhaps we should be actively looking for those without men in their lives, so we can step in and be that pivotal character. Jesus said to allow the children to come unto him. He wasn’t too busy with healing and teaching to visit children. His schedule gave him time for a detour to the well, where a woman needing a man’s stability was waiting on Him and didn’t even know it. He showed us how to be men.
The Scripture says that we have received the spirit of adoption, and can now call God our Father. What chance did we have of living correctly, morally, and spiritually without the adoption of Christ? Did we have a chance in a billion of pleasing God? Not one. Through the fatherly care of God, we have learned how to live correctly and be pleasing to him. Similarly, there are countless children and women needing the care of men, and we are in just the right scenario to do it. With grateful hearts for our own adoption, we should seek out our widows and mow their yards, chop their firewood, and buy their groceries. We should be on the lookout for fatherless children so we can take them camping, tell them stories, lead by example and pat them on the back for their efforts.
Steven Solomon is the Tri-State District Youth President and resides with his wife, Elaine, in Maryville, Tennessee.
The above article, “Father Knows,” is written by Steven Solomon. The article was excerpted from Apostolic Witness magazine, March 2013 issue, pages 16-17.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.