True Christianity has always fostered a groundswell of pity, empathy and sympathy toward those “less fortunate.” Jesus, by his words and example, catered to the underdog and was despised, in part, for his association with those less-reputable scalawags of society (Matthew 9:10-13). As followers of our master, we should mimic His behavior.
The difficulty and sacrifice sometimes becomes burdensome when there is a continued dependence on the part of the “needy” and, because we are to be good stewards of God’s good gifts, we do not want to enable sloth or encourage poor choices. This consideration understood, there are still many who find themselves in circumstances that are beyond their ability to cope with successfully. It is unfortunate that these poor souls too often become “wards of the state” instead of subjects of charity. Our government has, in many ways, hijacked the work of the church in the role of benevolence. For all the government doles of Rome, it did not suffer this flaw.
James summed up “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father” in the two-fold proposition of keeping oneself unspotted from the world (which is expected) but also and of equal value, caring for “orphans and widows in their trouble” (James 1:27). This same James would chide the faithlessness of patronizing expressions of concern as a contrast to actually doing something to change the predicament of those in need (James 2:14ff).
To “visit” (a literal translation of the term episkeptomai, to inspect, that is, (by implication) to select; by extension to go to see, relieve: – look out, visit), is not just lip-service; it is the active expression of tangible, real and life-changing help. And, sometimes, that help comes in the form of nothing more than just being there; to hear, to sympathize and to commiserate.
Our care facilities, hospitals and private homes house the infirmed, disabled, mourning and aged, whose very existence often teeters on the ragged edge of death. What an awesome opportunity to exercise a pure and undefiled religion. When is the last time you “visited” someone in need?