Written by Jon Sampson
Isaiah 1:17 is a pretty well-known verse: learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Have you ever read that verse in context? Yikes. Be warned, it’s strong.
Starting in verse 10, it says “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Were you ever at a friends house when they got in trouble? That awkward feeling of just sitting there and watching someone else get yelled at – that’s how I feel reading that, but then I remembered that He’s talking to me too.
Is He saying that all of that stuff isn’t important? No. All of those sacrifices and offerings are things that God commanded the people to do. So if those aren’t bad things, why do they make God so upset? Because when those things are becoming the focus of our worship we miss a really important part of worship. In the book Becoming Home, author Krish Kandiah says “if we care about worship, we should worship by caring.”
So how can we do that? The answer is different for everyone. 1 Corinthians 12 talks through a variety of spiritual gifts, and says All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (v 11) That chapter goes on to talk about the importance of unity within the diversity of our spiritual gifts. Everyone has a different gift, but they are all equally valuable to the mission of Christ.
As Steven pointed out a few weeks ago, chapter 12 flows right into chapter 13. Groundbreaking, right? 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous love chapter. If we do anything with the best intentions but do it without love, it’s meaningless. We are called to use our unique gifts within the body of Christ to love those around us. Everyone has a different gift, but we all have the same call to love those around us. We can have the best music, super engaged children’s ministry, and most generous offerings – but if we’re not doing good, seeking justice, correcting oppression, bringing justice to the fatherless, and pleading the widow’s cause then we’re not really worshiping.
James 1:27 says Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. I’m obviously biased towards foster care and adoption, but this seems pretty clear. If we want to practice the type of religion that God finds pure and undefiled, we need to be doing something related to orphans and widows. As I said, I’m biased towards orphan care – there are many different ways to worship through service, but the important thing is that you find your way, and do that to the best of your abilities. We can help you figure out what spiritual gifts you have and how to use them. Let us know if we can help you out!