(This post is part of the Confidence in Our Calling series.)
The Bible contains numerous commands regarding adoption and orphan care. God makes it clear that showing mercy to the fatherless is not optional for those who would follow Him.
God’s law admonishes the Israelites not to deprive the fatherless of justice. Instead, God commands His people to show compassion to orphans when they harvest their crops (see Deuteronomy 24:17-22) and when they bring their tithe to the Lord (see Deuteronomy 26:12-13). These instructions are meant to remind Israel of their own ongoing dependence on the Lord. “Remeber that you were slaves in Egypt. This is why I command you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 24:22)
The sages of the Old Testament agree. “Do not…encroach on the fields of the fatherless,” urges the wise man, “for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.” (Proverbs 23:10-11) The prophets cry out for the orphan’s justice. “Learn to do right!” shouts a frustrated Isaiah. “Seek justice…Defend the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17). Jeremiah and Zechariah echo this call (see Jeremiah 22:3 and Zechariah 7:8-10).
Jesus illustrates how caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the sick – characteristics which surely apply to orphans — is basic to following Him and keeping His commands. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats recorded in Matthew 25:31-46, He foretells how the Son of Man will address His confused disciples at the end of time. “’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (verse 40) The same criteria will be used to judge the wicked. “’Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (verse 45)
So while the Bible does not state that all believers are meant to adopt, it does command followers of Christ to care for orphans. This ministry can take a myriad of forms, but for many, it does in fact mean considering, praying about, and pursuing adoption. “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)