Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 5, 1963

James 1:27 And Consistency

Ellis Lindsey

It would seem that as many brethren have set out to defend "orphan homes," they have come to look upon James 1:27 as referring specifically to the giving of money from church treasuries to the fatherless and widows. As has been proved too many times in this journal to need further substantiation in this brief article, James 1:27 refers to individual action. But if we were to grant, for argument's sake, that the passage includes church-treasury support of Institutional Orphan Homes, allow me to point out what else would be included in the relationship between church and orphan in the passage:

....To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction...." "Visit" here is translated from the Greek episkeptomai, which is rendered "help" by most translations, and is defined by lexicons as here meaning to "look after" (Arndt and Gingrich, Thayer, Robinson); "to visit, with a view to help, relieve, or deliver" (Bullinger); or "to visit for the purpose of comfort and relief" (Bagster). This visitation is not limited to financial assistance, although such is included. This help may — and yes, should — be psychological and disciplinary when needed. I am sure we all agree up to this point.

But the thing this help is to relieve is the affliction of the fatherless and widows. The meaning of this word (thlipsis in Greek) is "difficult circumstances" (Arndt and Gingrich); "oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits" (Thayer). Many translations say "trouble." This affliction is not confined to lack of money. This trouble may be need for advice or understanding; in fact, it includes everything that troubles the widow or orphan. Christians should relieve this distress.

My conclusion is that if James 1:27 supports the church in giving out of its treasury to one man or group of men who then use the funds as they please in organizing Orphan Homes, then why couldn't churches contribute from their treasuries to one man or group of men who would then go into the business of aiding as they please widows and orphans in all their trouble — in law problems, counseling, finance, discipline, personal problems, etc.? If this passage authorizes the use of human organizations through which the church aids orphans and widows financially, it also authorizes the church to turn its obligation to widows and orphans over to human organizations to aid, with money from the church treasury, in any and all problems which confront orphans and widows. Yet, the liberals would be opposed to these organizations if they did that — or would they? Can we not see that James 1:27 refers to individual, not church-treasury, aid?

— 1614 North 11th, Waco, Texas