As a single mother, I sometimes have felt that the church should be helping me. At times, I would have a little self-pity party, feeling very “woe is me” when the backyard fence was falling down or a water spot appeared on my ceiling. I wished I had a man to help me; I wished there were a second income in my household; I wished I had more time to devote to things other than working and taking care of a household.
In His great love, God has a special place in His heart for fatherless children and widows (although some may disagree with the notion that a single mother is a widow, a fatherless child is fatherless, regardless of the situation). In Psalm 68:5 (NIV) He is called a “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows…” Furthermore, His Word calls His people to help these special families, telling them “…to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, NIV) He calls this a pure practice of religion, something good and undefiled in His holy eyes. In Exodus 22:22-24, He gives a dire warning to anyone mistreating the single mother or her young. “ You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” (NIV)
Wow. So, with all of that, you would think that the single mother should simply be protected and served by her brothers and sisters in Christ. She should just sit back, relax, and let everyone take care of her – right?
I don’t think so. You see, God’s Word does not use the word unless to let us out of something. Instead, the word unless is used to make sure we understand how we are included in, or will be excluded from something. The book of Matthew has plenty of Scriptures that include this use of unless:
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20, NIV)
“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 18:, NIV)
Unless is not used, ever, to let us out of something God is telling us to do. Rather, we are all included in every command He gives us. This includes the single mother. God did not tell us to tithe, unless you are a poor, struggling single mom. God did not tell us to refrain from speaking evil of anyone, unless it is a mean ex-husband who deserves a good word bashing. God does not tell us to make disciples, unless you are just too busy as a single mom, what with working and raising children on your own.
No, single parents are not excluded. Actually, no one is excluded. He is not a God of excuses; He is a God of plans and action. While we as single mothers are pressed for time and money, and may be dealing with stressors from the other parent, God does not give us special permission to go against His Word. Rather, He wants to use us right where we are. In fact, He tends to enjoy using those of us that are not considered “just right”, that way only He is glorified, not us.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1: 26-31, NIV)
As Christians, as single mothers or single parents, as any Christian with a problem that makes you feel less than, we are called to boast in the Lord, and to rejoice in our problems, because it glorifies Him when we do.