I think I’ve always known what the Bible says about orphans, but so many times when faced with the overwhelming problem of orphans and foster children, I’ve turned away. It’s not that I’m cruel or unkind. In fact, the idea of children unprotected and unloved in this world breaks my heart. It’s just that the problem seems so big that I don’t know where I can even begin to help.
Maybe you’ve experienced similar feelings and felt guilty about not helping orphans, especially if you do know what the Bible says about our responsibility toward the orphan. You may not be able to adopt or foster children, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help orphans in real, practical, and meaningful ways.
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What Does the Bible Say About Orphans?
If you’ve ever wondered what the bible says about orphans and the believer's responsibility toward them, keep reading for some ways you can support orphans in your own county and around the world.
We often forget that the orphan crisis is worldwide, extending from countries where children are left parentless due to war, disease, and genocide, to our own cities and counties where children are removed from their homes due to drug use, abuse, neglect, or incarceration of the parent(s). In many cases, children become orphans or, as we say, “part of the system” even though they may have one or more parent very much alive.
First, let’s take a look at what God has to say about orphans and what He expects of those who say they follow and love Him when it comes to caring for the fatherless and abandoned. The following are just a few of the verses on what the Bible says about orphans. I encourage you to explore and do more research on your own. As you do, pray and ask God to show you how He wants to use you to care for these vulnerable and needy children.
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God Cares About Orphans – A Lot!
Because God cares about orphans, it makes sense that we should too. The Bible tells us to love one another as He loves us, (John 13:34-35) and that includes everyone.
God seems to have a special fondness for orphans and widows simply because they are the most vulnerable among us. A society is only as strong as its weakest and most vulnerable, so making the case that orphans deserve our attention and care is easy to do.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)
God Uses Us to Care for the Orphan
We are His hands and His feet–we represent Jesus in the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). He sends us into the world as an extension of His care and love for the orphan. There is little doubt that all of us can, and should, do something to help those who are fatherless and in need of parental love and support.
“The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” (Psalm 146:9)
We Can’t Call Ourselves Christians and Not Care About Orphans
It’s simply not possible. James is clear about this in chapter 1. There is something that every one of us can do to support orphans in the world. Keep reading and you’ll find a way!
“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 1:27 NIV)
God Always Intended for His People to Provide for the Orphan
Even in the Old Testament, God gave clear instructions that the orphans and widows were to be taken care of by His people.
“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
There Are Warnings and Blessings in the Bible About Caring for the Orphans
God takes the business of looking after orphans so seriously that He includes several scriptures of warning about dealing with the orphan and the widow. He makes it clear that no society should tolerate abuse or unfair treatment of an orphan. He also includes this as a condition for His blessings. If you want to know how to get God’s attention, take care of the orphans!
“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22)
“Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.” (Proverbs 23:10)
“…if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place…then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors forever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7:6-7)
Why I Care About Orphans: My Dad’s Story
Certainly not all orphan and foster care stories are of the sad and helpless type you read about in the news or watch on made-for-television movies, but unfortunately, my father’s story is worse. My father was an orphan, well, not really an orphan–both his parents were alive–but he was raised in orphanages and foster homes which ranged from cold to utterly abusive.
His story sheds light on something I had never thought of when thinking of an orphan: a child may still be an orphan even if his biological parents are alive. It’s called abandonment and it adds a secondary level of grief and pain to the orphan’s heart. Knowing your parents are unable to care for you is one thing, but growing up your whole life knowing that your parents didn’t want to take care of you is quite another.
My father remembers the day his mother left him and his sisters on the doorstep of an orphanage and made an empty promise, “I’ll come back for you.” She did come back. When I was 16 and when my father was in his 50s.
My grandmother ran off with another man, possibly to escape an abusive marriage–the details are unclear, but what is clear is that my father was left without a protective parent to guard and guide him. He was vulnerable to abuse–both physical and sexual–and on that day he became a statistic.
An interesting historical fact about the foster care world of the 1930s is that fathers were not allowed to raise their children alone. They would only be granted custody again when they were remarried, so my father remained, for all intents and purposes, an orphan until he was 15 years old.
I didn’t hear my father’s entire story until I was in my 30s and had children of my own. I found a picture of my father as a child and the Lord showed me how there was still a broken little boy inside the body of a man. This understanding, and hearing the rest of my father’s story, helped me forgive him for many things and learn to love him despite all the ways he had not been able to be a father to me.
Practical Ways That You Can Support Orphans According to the Bible
Here are some practical and meaningful ways that you can support orphans and honor God’s commands from the Bible regarding orphans.
Be a Mentor to an Orphan
Typically, the orphan that does not find an adoptive home is a teenager. A lot of potential adoptive parents prefer to adopt a baby or young child who is less set in their ways or who is easier to handle if difficult situations and emotions arise.
Teenagers often live out their minor years in the orphanage and then turned loose on their own at age 18. Some states have extended this care to age 21 to allow these young adults time to learn life skills, find a job and a place to live.
Many of these state laws have changed due in large part to the work by Jimmy Wayne, author of A Walk to Beautiful. Wayne was an orphan like my father – both parents alive but fully abandoned. He even spent some time as a homeless teenager until a kind, elderly couple took him into their home and helped him learn to navigate life. And also told him about Jesus!
Wayne attributes their unselfish lifestyle as instrumental in turning him from a wayward orphan to a country music singer and motivational speaker. His story is both memorable and inspirational. Make sure you grab a box of tissues!
There are unofficial ways to mentor a child or teen who needs a caring adult figure in their life, and there are programs that match you with a child. You can also consider adopting an adult orphan. Just because a child turns 18 does not mean she no longer longs for a family to belong to. If you don’t think this is even a thing, take a look at this online forum and see how the desire to be a part of a loving family, to belong, never leaves the orphan, no matter how old they are. Tissue warning again!
- A Family for Every Child
- Big Brothers and Big Sisters (check your local areas)
Become a CASA for Orphans
When I read A Walk to Beautiful, I found out about CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. I was intrigued and knew that as soon as my schedule would allow me to do this, I would become a CASA volunteer. In November of 2017, I was sworn in by a county judge as a CASA.
A CASA volunteer comes alongside children in foster care and becomes an advocate for their needs as they navigate the foster care system. Children in the system may move from family care to kinship care, to foster care, and even residential treatment facilities several times before they find a permanent placement but the CASA is their one constant, familiar face that stays with them throughout the entire process. The CASA’s main role is to make sure that all the child’s needs are met and that their voice is being heard during court proceedings and decisions made about their future. Read more about becoming a CASA in your local community.
Give to Organizations That Support Orphans
There is no shortage of organizations that raise money that is used directly in the care of orphans. One popular way to practically care for orphans around the world is to sponsor a child. Non-profit groups like Compassion International and Danita’s Children match you with a child that you can write to and send money to support on a monthly basis. The money you send provides meals, medical care, education, and clothing. If you support a Christian organization you can be assured that your sponsor child will receive a Bible and training in the word of God and hear about God’s love and sacrifice for her.
Another great organization that supports orphans and helping them find families and transition into adulthood is Haven of Hope International.
If you are inclined and financially able, you can sign up for short term mission trips to visit your child and meet other orphans. You can go one step further and become an ambassador by sharing the organization’s plans and values with your local church and help other Christians find out how they can sponsor a child too. You can also make one-time donations to organizations like World Relief and Samaritan’s Purse and you can earmark your donation to go directly to orphan and widow care.
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Shop Ethically and Find Places That Employ Orphans
Did you know that the way we shop on a regular basis impacts those less fortunate in the world? There is a saying, “Live simply so others may simply live.” The meaning behind this phrase is that when we mass produce and over consume, someone, somewhere in the world gets exploited or hurt, and in many cases, it is the orphan.
Child labor is outlawed in western countries but in developing nations it’s still common practice. Children are easily exploited into slave labor or slave-like wages through unethical practices that prey on poor and uneducated families. Promised a safe place to work and live and wages that will support the family back home, children are taken from their homes and abandoned in sweatshops and dangerous factories or mines.
In a reverse role, parents must leave their children behind and move to a city where they can find work in factories so they can send money home. In some cases, they only see their children once or twice a year. In extreme cases of poverty, parents sell their children into prostitution in exchange for food. We sometimes play an indirect part in these abhorrent practices by purchasing cheaply made products from overseas or purchasing from American companies that have moved their operations overseas for a larger profit margin.
There are some documentaries that showcase how the first world consumerism is impacting children and the poor worldwide.
The way to combat this type of exploitation is to buy products that are made from ethically sourced materials, reduce impulse buying of cheaply made goods that often end up in landfills or strewn all over the backroom of thrift stores, and do some research into where the products you buy originate. In other words, buy less and when you buy go for quality over quantity.
There are boutiques and online shops that source local men and women around the world to teach them small business skills or rescue them from human trafficking organizations and teach them a trade. By buying from organizations such as Clothed in Hope, Trades of Hope, and Winton and Waits you are supporting local families and ensuring that children will not be separated from their parents in order to secure income. These organizations are just a few that curate and sell hand-crafted gifts such as jewelry, scarves, and bags made in underdeveloped countries.
Gift Giving to the Orphan in Lieu of Traditional Gifts
We are a blessed society, to say the least, but often, even as Christians, we can get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday gift giving and get sucked into the commercialism of it all. Before we know it, we’ve bought our loved ones useless and unneeded gifts just to show them we love them.
Many people are tired of all the consumerism surrounding Christmas and are looking for alternative gift ideas. Why not switch your focus for the next holiday season and donate gifts in the name of your family and friends? Take the money you would have spent on more clutter and gadgets to shove in a closet and buy some much needed and life-sustaining gifts for the orphans and widows in poor countries.
World Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision are a few reputable organizations that offer creative and fun ways to donate. You receive a card that you can sign and give to your loved one explaining that a dozen goats were donated in their name or that a young child is now going to be able to go to school because you donated to them instead of buying the latest PlayStation or iPhone. Doesn’t this please our Lord?
Remember That The Bible Has a Lot to Say About Orphans!
Whether in your own town or across the world, there are orphans waiting for your help and love. Now that you know what the Bible has to say about orphans, you can move forward in faith, looking for a place and opportunity to serve, support, and sustain orphans, the fatherless, and others in need.