Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 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.
Parenting is hard work. I believe it is the hardest and most important job any of us will ever do. It involves sacrifice, tough decisions, anxiety, being unpopular, frustration, and a lot of learning along the way. Of course, it can also be filled with a lot of love and joy, but there are some days when we may wonder where that joy is hiding! For those who are doing this parenting thing alone, the journey is even more difficult. All parents have days when they feel like giving up, but the single parents among us probably have more of those days than the rest. And yet, I have seen so many single parents thrive and succeed at raising great young adults.
Read this story from one of our church staffers, Savannah Vasquez: “My mom was a single mom for a while with me and my sister. I only knew when I was older how hard things were, because she made everyday joyful. I know that one Christmas, she saved up enough to buy us a swing set. She would stay up at night after we had gone to sleep to put it together in our backyard. On Christmas, we woke up to elf footprints (made of construction paper) that led to a swing set! Whether we were making up silly dances to songs in the car, or going to Blockbuster as our big outing, she always made a point to see the bright side in everything.”
What a tribute to this mom! I am certain she had days when life seemed too much to bear. But she remained focused on the joy. She did what she had to do, and taught her girls so much by her example.
James tells us, “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.” Why did James point out the widows and orphans? At the time, these groups represented society's most helpless members. Widows were women who had lost their husbands prior to bearing children. They were then destitute, along with children without parents. Both groups were among that culture's most needy. James was making the point that we have to follow our words with action. We cannot, as a church, say we have faith or are religious if we don’t take care of those who are the most in need.
Today, we have several groups in our society that often get overlooked, and single parents are one such group. They could use extra love and support from all of us, but especially the church. Let’s rally around such people. Let’s go out of our way to help them, to mentor their kids, to offer our time and efforts to support them. Let us be the sort of church that provides respite and encouragement for all parents, but especially for those doing it alone. What can you do to surround these families with steadfast love?
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for providing me with people who have loved me and shaped me along the way. Thank you for the Holy Spirit you have provided as my guide. I am grateful that I am not alone in this world. Please show me the ways I need to order my life so that I may be a blessing and a guide to others. Open my heart to the Spirit’s leading and give me courage to follow. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.