Week 10, Part II: James and the Fatherless

Day 2: The Audience and the Servant

(James 1:1)

As we reach the last part of our look at the New Testament and the fatherless, we come to the only book in which the fatherless are actually mentioned by name in the entire second half of the Bible. The Greek word orphanos is used in one other place, but James is the only place where the word is translated “fatherless”.

Since the word fatherless is only used once in the book of James, you might wonder why we would look at the entire book. The answer is very simple: The rest of the book gives excellent advice for the carrying out of ministry to the fatherless, and numerous reiterations of the related principles we have already seen from Exodus through to this point are spread throughout the entire book.

Before getting too far into things, I want us to see two important things about James and those to whom he was writing. In James 1:1 the epistle begins, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”

First, the background of James’ audience. Notice that he is writing “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” He is writing to Jews, who have not only possibly witnessed the life of Christ and the teaching of the apostles but who also have the background of the entire Old Testament and its teachings as part of their heritage. This will be very important later on in this study.

Second, the attitude of James. James refers to himself as the “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Having the heart of a servant is one of the most important heart attitudes for successful ministry among the fatherless. If we are in any way “in it for ourselves” we aren’t going to get far. But, before we can successfully serve the children, their guardians or any government officials who may be involved, we must first be committed to be the servants of God. The demands are so many. The needs are so many. But our first responsibility is to do what God tells us to do, to meet the needs He directs us to meet. We are His servants first.

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