What is Pure and Undefiled Religion Before God?

by Jack Wellman on May 19, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

Here are simple steps that you can follow to seek after the type of religion that God accepts.  It is not about perfect church attendance, giving to the poor or tithing.  It’s about starting a nursing home, assisted living or care center ministry.  It is easy and the rewards last for eternity.  You will never know what joy there is in beginning a ministry for the elderly, aged, invalids, and handicapped.  To God, that is “pure and undefiled religion.”

Pure Religion

When people want to know what pure religion really is, there is a biblical definition given by James.  He tells us exactly what pure religion really is.  In James 1:27 is 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.“ A key component is that the type of religion that God our Father accepts as “pure and undefiled” may not be what you think.  He doesn’t say that it’s perfect church attendance, tithing, donating to food banks, reading your Bible everyday, praying regularly – not that these are not important – but God says that pure and undefiled religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”  We are to keep ourselves “unstained from the world” too but a top priority is to look after the orphans and the widows.  That is why it is listed first in James 1:27.  And where do you find the greatest number of orphans and widows today?  Not where you might expect.

Pure Religion

How many of the residents in a nursing home are orphans and widows? Almost all of them!

Orphans and Widows in Nursing Homes

How many of the residents in a nursing home are orphans and widows?  Almost all of them!  When we think of visiting orphans and widows, we think of church members who have lost their husbands or we think of an orphanage where children have lost both parents or they are wards of the state.  Let me shift your thinking to a nursing home.  At a Bible study one night I asked the residents this question: “How many of you have had your spouse die?”  Nearly every hand shot up.  Then I asked, “How many of you have lost your parents?”  All of the hands were raised.  Think about that.  Almost every single resident in nursing homes are orphans, having lost their parents and almost all of the residents are widows and  widowers.

The revelation that came to me one night when I was giving a Bible study on “pure religion” was that they were all orphans and nearly all of them were widows or widowers at the nursing home.  Honestly, it had never occurred to me that I was visiting the orphans and widows.  Sadly, 60% of residents there never have one single visitor ever come to visit them.  These people are hungry for company and someone to talk too.  I go early, well before the Bible study starts at 6:00 pm and go into the dining room and go from table to table to sit, talk, and just listen to them.  This is an amazing opportunity to put feet on my faith.  I get to share the gospel with them, with the employees, and with resident’s family members too.  What an awesome chance to tell people that Jesus loves them and that He cares for them, even into their latter years.  I can tell them that Jesus says,Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you…The Lord is my helper (Heb 13:5).  Jesus says to them that the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).  Yes, Jesus has not forgotten about them and I am there to remind them of that.  Even if they have no one else to come and visit them, I will and Jesus is really with them – even into their old age.

God Will Not Forsake Them Even When They Are Old

How inspiring these Bible studies are because I can offer them hope. I love to quote Bible Scriptures to them that sometimes bring a tear to their eye and what joy this gives me.  Once I repeated Psalm 71:18 to a 100-year old man that God says, Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”  Isaiah 46:4 is another favorite that says,Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  To honor and respect these people, I can read Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding (Job 12:12)?  I tell them that we should Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD (Lev 19:32).

I want these people to have a sense of dignity and respect.  There are fewer things in a ministry that you can do that is more rewarding than having your own nursing home ministry.  It will be rewarding for you and for these aged men and women who have often have no visitors at all.  I have grown to love them and I tell them that.  They are not able to attend their local church anymore so I bring the church to them.  And there are those who are in the limelight of their years and have not yet heard the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and what a prime time to tell them about Him.  They are on the precipice of eternity and what better time in their lives for them to hear how they can have eternal life?  There is joy when I can tell them that some day there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more aches and pains, no more walkers, no more wheelchairs, and no more “take your medicine!”  Heaven is often the only hope that these men and women have at this point in their lives.  It gives them something to look forward too and a sense of joy in eager expectation of being reunited with their beloved lost, loved ones.  They will see their father and mother again, they will see their long, lost friends, family, and in some cases, their own children.

This is pure religion: Visiting the orphans and widows in their affliction.  I have become a son to many of them in some cases and they have grown to love me too; an unexpected reward.  I believe that I receive more joy from this ministry than I probably have given them.  They accept me as one of their own…I love them as one of my own.  That is the kind of pure religion that God the Father accepts, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin May 20, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thanks for you article it’s wonderful. I used to work in a nursing home as a dining attendant and then again as a CNA and I totally understand how lonely and isolated the residents are. I always left work with an uncomfortable feeling because of a lot of these residents were mistreated by staff & no one came in to visit them. I know there’s not a “right” way to have a ministry (or maybe there is?), but do you think a good way to get involved in the nursing home again would be to bring in a pet for pet therapy & also talking to them as well? I’m 21 years old, and I’m still in college and just became a christian not two years ago so I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. The one thing that has remained constant is my love for animals & more recently my love for God so I was wondering if incorporating the two by bringing in a dog for company as well as talking with the residents (perhaps talking about God & Jesus if I find the right words to say) would be a good start to a ministry?

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Jack May 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Erin, I am so impressed by your love and compassion for these men and women who are frequently pushed aside when they are old…and, when they can no longer care for themselves, which sometimes happens before they are old. What a shame and what a waste of good people. Pet therapy is awesome. The nursing home I have a Bible study at has a pet that comes with a worker in administration. I think this is a superb way to start a ministry and these people are so good and they are the most neglected segment of our society. I would first talk to the administrator and they might direct you to then talk with the Activity Director and you will have to fill out an application form for a volunteer as I had too. I think, even if they don’t allow for pets, you can still go there and I go into the living room area (TV room) and sit down and talk with them, then to the dining room and visit with them and I tell them that we have a Bible study at 6 p.m. that they can come to, and so on. I know that they are starved for attention and just someone to sit and listen. Go for it. I feel such joy after I go home from seeing them and after our Bible study.

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rbn May 21, 2012 at 12:55 am

Good day again sir .thank you for the article. I have fist hand experience in these matters as I am a deakon in my church the old poeple apreciates it very much even if you just ask how they are doing I think you should mention that even if you are young they will still apreciate a visit no matter the age difference . A question please .I read that you say if I understand correctly we will be re united with our loved ones in heaven ? Is this correct and if so could you please give me some Scripture which can back this up . I ask this because I find more than once that poeple argue about this saying that nobody will know knowbody as everything will be new in Heavan.can you please help.if I did not write clearly or understandibly please ask .

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Jack May 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Thank you for your comment and question RBN. Yes, this is correct that we will know each other in heaven, at least family and friends will. The attitude of David at the death of his child shows that Israel’s King believed in Heavenly Recognition. He had fasted and wept in the hope that God would be gracious to him and allow the child to live. But when final word was received that he was dead, David ate food, wiped the tears away from his eyes, and found comfort in a hope that he expressed in the words: “I shall go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23). Would there be any comfort for David if he had to go to his child whom he would not know?

The scene on the Mount of Transfiguration is generally accepted as strong evidence of Heavenly Recognition. After death the spirit is clothed with a spirit body that is recognizable. This fact was in evidence when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up into the Holy Mount. As Heaven shone forth in celestial effulgence, there appeared before Christ and His disciples Moses and Elijah. These two Old Testament saints did not appear as angels or ghosts, but, Luke says: “There talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias” (Luke 9:30). Not only were Moses and Elijah recognizable by our Lord, but they were known to the disciples also. Peter certainly knew them, for he said: “Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (verse 33).

When the rich man died and went to Hell, “he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23). Here is a case that proves both recognition and remembrance in the future life. If, in the abode of the lost with its limitations of spiritual wisdom and perception, there is feeling for and recognition of loved ones, how much greater will be the affinity and knowledge of our loved ones in the eternal Home of the redeemed where cognizance is not limited!

Heaven is revealed as a social place, where enjoyment and fellowship are set forth under the figure of a feast. Jesus said: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Assuredly, the patriarchs and prophets knew each other at this holy festival, and so will the saved from every quarter of the earth.

I could go on as there are many other Scriptures but time or space doesn’t allow here. I hope this helps my friend. Thank you for your comment and question. Please come back again soon.

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Thomas May 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Hello again! This is amazing to me. As I was reading this article I found myself disappointed in myself. As a child I went to nursing homes and absolutely dispised it. Now that I reflect on that and what you said above it makes me want to do this. Now how do you plan a study? I find this challenging for me because I feel I havent reached enough study to perform this right. Am I correct in saying that or should I just dive in? I honestly feel I am wasting time by not jumping in. Any help would be great! Thanks and God bless!

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Jack Wellman May 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Hello again my friend Thomas. How wonderful to have you return again sir. My first question is have you visited with the nursing home administrator? Then with the Activities Director? Those are the first two places to start. They will want you to fill out a Volunteer Application to for security and for liability purposes. This was no big deal for they just want some references and your name and address, etc.

They will also ask you to commit to this as they will put this Bible Study on the Activities List because the staff there want to have the residents get involved in activities like this to keep their mind and bodies active. I also bring a hymnal and play a few easy gospel hymns like Amazing Grace but you can just sing them with them without music accompaniment…no problem. You want to see if you can use the Chapel or Sanctuary in the home as every nursing home has one of each of these at least.

Then…..Create a topic like for them I choose Heaven. I googled the word Heaven and Bible and printed out a bunch of Scriptures about heaven and read them to them and talked about how wonderful it will be…no more tears, no more sorry, no more wheelchairs (I added these from my own thoughts) no more walkers, no more “take your medicine.”

You might also want to start the study at 6pm or close because most of the residents can’t stay awake after 7pm. Our study is 6 – 6:45pm so its not too long. Talk to your pastor. Sometimes I take one of my children’s old Bible Story books and read it to them…they love it. Hope this helps. God bless you for your ministry and keep in touch and let me know how its going Thomas.

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Thomas May 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

This is awesome! Thank you for your advice! I am going to go do the forms on my next day off!! God bless I will keep you posted! ;))

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Denise Nantz March 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Dear Jack, it is great to find you here on the web. Truly you can find about anything. I’ve began work, in the kitchen, of a nursing home for perhaps a month and was asked to take over a bible study for the residents there. I’m proceding a woman who faithfully studied and provided activities of interest and companionship for the residents for nearly thirty years. I love God’s word and have always desired to study the word with others in a study group.God has opened this door. Tomorrow Is the first day and I will share that God Loves them. I’m trusting God to lead from here. Please pray for us.

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Jack Wellman March 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

Mrs. Nantz…you are such an encouragement. I am so glad. What breaks my heart is that of all in our church in Mulvane, KS, I alone will go into the community. This church I am presently under-shepherd of must feel that it is the pastor’s job to do ALL the evangelizing, outreach, and door-to-door and so eventually, this church I am at will likely dry up and blow away but at least there are faithful believers like you still practicing “pure religion.” May God richly bless your ministry there.

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