God's Mandate & the Modern Christian Orphan Movement
Lately I've been seeing a lot of blogs about orphans. A lot of them are Christian blogs, talking about how God loves adoption and how he calls us to help the orphans. And thus, they are considering adoption for those reasons. I've been thinking about this. I do not believe that modern, physical adoption in any way mirrors spiritual adoption. However, God does indeed tell us to care for the orphan.
The orphan and the widow.
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands (Deuteronomy 24:19).In the Old Testament, provisions were made as a sort of Social Welfare program, to provide for families who had no male to provide for them (e.g. mothers and their children) as well as sojourners and strangers. Women in that time could not own land. If widowed, they would often marry a male relative to be provided for, to "redeem" her and whatever land/belongings that may be involved (Kinsman Redeemer). For widows and their children who were not redeemed, they could provide for themselves by following closely after the workers in the fields and vineyards to "glean" what was dropped.
This was no easy task; while it was against the law for the workers to pick up after themselves so that widowed families could glean, various Bible passages would lead us to believe that they may have been taunted and harassed by workers while gleaning. The book of Ruth perhaps provides the best description of this part of the law being carried out to provide for sojourners, orphans, and widows.
Mention of "the fatherless" in the King James Version appears 43 times. Rarely are "the fatherless" mentioned in scripture without also mentioning the widowed along with them.
The UNICEF definition of "orphan" is a child who has lost ONE parent and has one still living.
We absolutely need to help and support orphaned and abandoned children. However, we cannot view these children without also viewing the original context of their families. Where are their families? What happened to them? What are their needs? Our Christian principles affirm this. God rarely made mandates to meet the needs of children without also including their parents or families. Christians need to understand that this new and improved "orphan movement" largely decontexts these children from their families as if their families do not exist. God doesn't do this when he speaks about the orphan and watches over them, and we shouldn't either.
"One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed." --Proverbs 28:27
Photo credit: Ruth and Naomi in the Fields of Boaz
This post is part of my series for November's National Adoption Awareness Month.