5th Sunday After Easter: Investing In The Vermin That Surrounds Us

Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one's self unspotted from this world. James 1:27

Local businessmen in Brazil call them “Vermin. Garbage. If we let them grow up, they will be criminals, a blight on our society.” There are an estimated 12 million homeless children on the streets of Brazil. The parents lost them in the crowds, put them out, died. However they got there, they are there. They beg, they steal, they sell their bodies. They eat garbage. They start scared, and end scarred, hard, and dead.

Some policeman and others “moonlight” by contracting to kill street children so that they will not menace the city. In 1992, an average of 400 of these children were killed monthly in Brazil.

Same in other big cities. The Philippine government estimates that there are 15,000 child prostitutes in Manila between the ages of 9 and 12. One estimate suggests that in Thailand there are 800,000 girls between 12 and 16 years old involved in prostitution.

Is your first thought merely human? Like: “If I can barely rear my own children to walk worthy of the Gospel, what hope would there be to change the lives of street kids?” Or: “If it takes 10,000 dollars worth of Christian counseling to stabilize a mature American Christian who was sexually abused, what in the world would we do with thousands of adolescents who knew nothing but abuse and lawlessness and violence on the streets?”

Do you find yourself looking (in good American fashion) at the bottom line and saying: “The turn around on this investment would not be good”? Or: “The growth potential in planting churches among street kids is not very great. There are too many obstacles”?

Shift your thinking for a minute (or a lifetime). What about the widow who put in her last two pennies? Jesus said she gave more than anyone. What about John the Baptist who got his head whacked for a dancer’s whim and never did a miracle? Jesus said, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John.” What about the poor in spirit? Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What about the meek? They inherit the earth. What about those who receive one child in the name of Jesus? “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) In other words, in that moment, they have receive God.

What effect does it have on your longings when you think that God says “a pure religion” is to “visit orphans”?

The effect that it has on me is that it makes me want to love like Jesus loved and not always be thinking of earthly payoff. Face it, a few kids are cute, but most street kids will be thankless, rude, dirty, diseased, scar-faced, shifty-eyed, lice infested, suspicious, with bad smells and rotten teeth. If we minister mainly for the earthly payoff, we will burn out in a year.

Jesus did not say, “Pure religion is converting orphans.” He did not say, “Pure religion is making orphans mature and successful adults.” He said, “Pure religion is visiting orphans.” Results are God’s business. Obedience is ours. Perhaps when we grasp this, we will be freed from our earth-bound way of thinking and released to minister to the ones who are least likely to thank us.