The other day, I was reading one of those verses about how we are supposed to care for the widows and orphans, except the translation I was reading in did not call such children "orphans." It called them "fatherless." Doesn't that change things? It does for me.
As Christians, we are pretty good at nailing down the specifics and then distancing ourselves from the service. Admit it. We see a verse to take care of widows and orphans, and we start donating to charities building orphanages in Africa. That's where the orphans are, we say, and we could never go there, but here's a couple of bucks for your Kingdom work. Then we think we've done what God has asked us to do - cared for the orphans - without actually investing ourselves in caring for the orphans.
But what if those orphans are nothing more than the fatherless? Rather, the Father-less? What if we were to read God's word about the very lost He came to save and understand, yes, the social realities of the widows and orphans but understand, too, the spiritual realities. The Father-less are all around us.
And the widows. Yes, we ought to care for women left behind, women fighting alone in the world, women who had left their father and mother, cleaved to a lover, become one and had their other half ripped away from them by the violence and violation of death. Absolutely care for the widows.
But what if the widows are also those who were once the bride of Christ? What if Christ is dead to them now, and they are fighting alone in the world? These widows are all around us.
It's easy to think we have to solve the tangible, social problems of the world. That a Christian doing good is a Christian doing physical good. We donate to orphanages in places where too many children have no one to care for them. We take some time out of our week to feed, to fellowship, to friend the widow down the street because no one else seems to be checking in on her all that often. We break these commandments and these problems down to their visible need, but as much as God calls us to the visible (He does), He also calls us to the invisible, to the spiritual reality.
You go to the homeless shelter and volunteer your time. But what are you doing for those who have no concept of where Home is? You cook a meal and serve the hungry. But what about those who cannot live on bread alone? What about those hungering for something more than carbs and calories?
Jesus said whatever you do for the least of these.... The hungry, for whom food is not the answer. The thirsty, desperate for living water you can't draw out of a well. The naked, longing for the wardrobe of righteousness that comes with the Cross. The stranger, who isn't looking for a place to stay but a place to be. The imprisoned, who are trapped in the failings of a fallen world and a broken heart. The sick...those who can't take one more minute of this brokenness and need the power and the presence of the Great Physician.
The simple answer is to look at these verses and think, ok. Food. Drink. Clothing. Shelter. A visit now and then. Medicine. Simple things. Simple things we must absolutely be doing as God's people, as His church.
But it's not enough. It's not the whole thing.
God came to save the lost, a work He calls us to aid Him in. And that calling includes the lost...in translation. The lost...in new words. Not just the orphan, but the Fatherless. Not just the widow, but the once-beautiful bride of Christ. All of the lost - in this word or that - through His Word alone. In any translation.