Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
— James 1:27
Just to the west of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a city called Sand Springs — a small town that was constructed with the single wealth of a man named Charles Page. Page’s father died when he was young, and he saw the struggle that his widowed mother experienced as she cared for him and his siblings. As a young man, Page got a job working in the oil industry, but soon he went into the drilling business for himself. Page hit his first oil gusher in 1905 when he was 45 years old — one that began to quickly produce up to 2,000 barrels of oil per day. Soon he hit another gusher and then another — and it wasn’t long before he became immensely wealthy at a relatively young age.
Page remembered his mother’s financial struggles after his father died, so he chose to devote the bulk of his wealth to help orphans and widows. In 1908, he purchased land west of Tulsa and in the middle of that enormous territory, he began the construction of Sand Springs, Oklahoma — the town where I grew up. But Page’s purpose was not to build a city just for the sake of building a city. He dreamed that this city would become a hub for his real dream, which was Sand Springs Home — a well-financed orphanage that would care for orphans until adulthood. To assure that the orphans raised at Sand Springs Home would have jobs after they set off on their own, Page constructed the city of Sand Springs. He began to negotiate with steel, glass, and porcelain industries to move to his new city so that kids from his orphanage would have good employment opportunities when they became adults.
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In addition to Sand Springs Home, Page also dreamed of constructing a widow’s colony to care for widowed women. So in 1912, Page began construction of Sand Springs Widows’ Colony, a large area that had 40 houses for widowed women with children who could live there freely at his expense. All of this was provided as benevolence because Charles Page remembered the burden of poverty that his own family experienced when his father died unexpectedly.
I am familiar with this story because I grew up in Sand Springs and also because my Grandfather Miller was personally hired by Charles Page to lead the orchestra and band for Sand Springs Home. Through my grandfather’s connection to Page, my mother as a small girl spent many days and weekends at Sand Springs Home, where she personally witnessed how generously this man treated these orphans and widows.
When I entered high school myself, I became keenly aware of how well the children from Sand Springs Home were treated. They were well-dressed and well-groomed, and at Christmas time they received what seemed like mountains of gifts that were provided by funds left after the death of Charles Page. If they did well in school, there were funds available to help them go to college or university. What Page did for these orphans and widows — the long-term planning that he prepared for them — was simply remarkable and has impacted thousands of people’s lives for the better since he first began to put his dream into action in 1908.
Today I want to talk to you about assisting needy widows. But first, let’s talk about what the Bible means when it refers to widows. The word “widows,” which James used in James 1:27, is chera, a word that uniquely describes widows in the traditional sense of the word. It is the same word used by Jesus in Matthew 23:14 and Luke 4:26, which both clearly describe women who were bereft of their spouses due to death. James used the word “affliction” to describe the condition of this category of widows.
As we saw yesterday, the word “affliction” is a translation of the Greek word thlipsis, which depicts pressures that make it difficult to cope with life. This hardship may include housing, food, medical needs, or other physical needs that leave a person struggling to get up and face each day. According to James 1:27, we as believers have a God-given responsibility to reach out and help widowed women who are struggling due to the loss of a spouse. It is good, clean, and acceptable before God for us to visit and assist widows in these circumstances.
I realize we live in a day and age when insurance pays death benefits, the government often assists women who have lost their spouses, and many widows today are not suffering financially. However, there are still many widowed women who suffer great financial and social need when their spouses die, and God commands us to do whatever we can to be a blessing to them in their times of suffering. Since this is the command of God, I want to ask you: What are you doing to help widows in need?
You don’t have to be rich and wealthy like Charles Page was in 1908. The truth is, there are many wealthy people who never help anyone. Page helped because he remembered his mother’s own difficulty and chose to make a difference with his resources. What he did took great passion and long-term planning — which tells us that his giving was not based on emotion or just a “fancy of the moment.” It was deeply felt compassion that was expressed in action that has continued to impact people’s lives ever since his charitable work first started. I don’t know the spiritual status of Charles Page’s soul, but I know that his works continue to speak long after his death. What Page did was “clean religion” — something that God both encourages and endorses!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I am deeply stirred to begin formulating my long-term plan to bring real, measurable help to people in need through sincere acts of charity. You specified needy widows and orphans as people for whom I should take compassionate responsibility when their needs are brought to my attention. I ask You, Lord, to show me who and how to help. I commit to prove my faith by my works, as I live out the “clean religion” that honors You the most.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I actively pursue a life marked by the “clean religion” that God both encourages and endorses. I do not ignore the plight of orphans and widows in need. I deliberately take action in well-planned ways to provide help and to produce change that will make a positive difference in their lives for the glory of God!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, what actions are you going to take to reach out to widows who are in need? Have you ever done anything special to help a woman who has lost her spouse?
- Do you personally know a woman who has suffered financial and material loss as the result of her husband’s death? Who is that woman? Do you even know if she has financial need?
- What would Jesus do if He knew of a widow in dire financial straits? Would He simply wave at her and wish her well, or would He do something to assist her?