“Visit” is a Personal Command
In James Christians are instructed "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
A. Unfortunately, some have abused this passage in an attempt to justify the church contributing to human benevolent organizations.
B. An even greater problem is the attitude that has resulted from this practice.
1. How many have dropped a dollar in the collection plate thinking "I have visited those in need"
2. They have failed to fulfill the most basic element of "visiting."
C. The translation of James' instruction from the original Greek to English has lost its full meaning and force.
1. When you say today "I'm going to visit," you usually mean you are going to see someone and chat awhile.
2. The Greek word "episkeptomai," translated "visit" in English, means much more.
a. "visit" is "to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes; in order to see how he is,”……. i.e.
"Moses was educated in all the learning of
the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. (23)
"But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind
to visit his brethren, the sons of
Acts After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
b. "visit" is "to inspect, examine with the idea of relief ……… i.e.
James Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Matthew 25:35-36 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; (36) naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
c. “Visit" in Greek – “to look upon in order to help or benefit; e.g. to look after, have a care for, provide for" (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 242)."
1)is related to the Greek word "overseer,"
2)so to "visit" includes "to look upon, care for, exercise
oversight." (W. E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 1213).
d. There are three elements required by "episkeptomai," "to visit"
1)First, personal contact—going to the needy in person.
2)Second, personal examination—seeing to their needs.
3)Third, personal provision—providing for their needs.
e. The word "visit" occurs ten times in the New Testament
and every use demands the three elements of personal contact, examination and provision.
f. Christ's "visit" was not just to chat awhile or the sending of a representative angel.
Luke 1:78-79 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, (79) TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace."
Luke 1:68 "Blessed be the Lord God of
Christ's visit to men was God's personal contact and inspection to oversee our great need for salvation from sin and He personally provided the redemption price to meet that need.
g. Greek authority Marvin Vincent writes of "visit" in James 1:27, "James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money.
Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the world's sorrow: to visit the afflicted, and to visit them in their affliction." (Vincent's Word Studies, Vol. 1, p. 736).
Those churches which send money to human benevolent organizations cannot find support for their error in James 1:27, by the very definition of "visit." James is clearly instructing individual Christians to assist those in need—he is teaching pure religion is individual and personal, not institutional and impersonal. Those who give money to the church, for the church to give to a human benevolent organization, are twice removed from truly "visiting" the fatherless and widows in their affliction! Where is the personal going?
Where is the personal oversight?
Where is the personal assistance?
You cannot visit the sick and needy by putting money into a collection plate.