The Bible seems to have a lot to say about adoption, but churches don’t often dive into this much beyond saying that Christians are adopted into the family of Christ when they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Whether we feel called to adopt a child, have been adopted ourselves, or were raised by a biological family but have experienced spiritual adoption, we understand this concept of being grafted into a new family on some level.
This article will endeavor to discuss what the Bible says about adoption, both in a literal sense of adoption in our world today, and in a spiritual sense, becoming adopted as sons and daughters of God.
What does the Bible say about literal adoption?
Although the Bible doesn’t have a specific verse that commands parents to consider adoption as a viable way to raise a family, we do see instances in biblical examples.
For instance, when Moses’ mother could not care for him, since Pharaoh had mandated the slaughter of all the male infants, he was placed in the care of the Pharaoh’s daughter and reared in the palace (Exodus 2). Because she adopts him, he eventually grows up and saves the Israelite people from the oppressive power of Pharaoh.
Esther lost her parents at a young age, but her cousin Mordecai adopted her (Esther 2:7). Like Moses, she goes on to save the Jewish people.
In addition to biblical examples we encounter several verses which mention caring for orphans:
- James 1:7 tells us to care for widows and orphans in their distress
- Psalm 68:5 God is called the father of the fatherless
- Exodus 22:22 says not to take advantage of orphans
- Psalm 82:3 tells us to defend the weak and fatherless
- Matthew 25:40 Scripture tells us that whatever we did for the least of these we do for God
Although we can care for orphans in a number of ways, one of the most practical is to welcome them into our families. What better way can we care for someone without parents than to provide for their biological and spiritual needs? How can we prevent the world from taking advantage of them? By offering our homes and our love to these children, we can help defend them and give them the tools they need to thrive and succeed.
Even though we are all created equal in God’s image, society, especially society during the time of Jesus, did not view orphans as equals. In many ways, they were the least of these.
Why does the Bible place such an emphasis on orphans?
The Bible often will highlight widows and orphans and other more vulnerable groups for a number of reasons.
The main reason, however, is the Bible places a heavy emphasis on justice for those who do not have much of a say or voice.
In the Old and New Testament, orphans were among some of the most vulnerable in society. Parents in Ancient Rome and other civilizations would leave unwanted children to die in abandoned places, as explained in this article from the University of Kent. Even if someone did pick up the child from exposure, often it wasn’t purely to adopt them. Many were trained and entered into prostitution early in life by the same people who picked them up.
Often historians use the term exposure for this. Even in Acts 7:21, the verse uses the term “exposed” to refer to Moses, prior to his adoption.
The Bible places such a strong emphasis on these orphans and on adoption because of the massive vulnerability and lack of agency they had. Proverbs 31:8 tells us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
One of the ways we can do so is to adopt them into our own families.
What does the Bible say about spiritual adoption?
Even if we have not experienced a literal adoption on earth—whether as a parent or as a child—as believers, we have experienced a spiritual adoption.
The Bible talks about this spiritual adoption in a number of ways.
Through Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross, He has paved a way for us to reach the gates of Heaven and call God our “Abba” Father (Romans 8:15).
Like the orphans in Ancient Rome, we were extremely exposed, vulnerable, and lacked agency. We could do nothing to relieve ourselves from our circumstances, until Jesus rescued us and adopted us.
Psalm 27:10 says even when our own families abandon us, God takes us in. Even when our families fall apart and parents leave us, God will never forsake us. Once He grafts us into His family, we remain a part of it forever.
What does adoption mean for believers?
Whether we have experience literal adoption, spiritual adoption, or both, we can come to acknowledge we know how it feels to be in a vulnerable position. But because God chooses to be our Father and adopts us into His family, we have a place where we belong. We have a heavenly Father who loves us, where our earthly fathers may have failed us.
Furthermore, since we have experienced this love from the Father and this adoption, we can show our love to orphans and vulnerable children. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean all of us are called to adoption, but many of us are.
When God calls us to adopt, we’ll be ready with love overflowing since He lavishly has poured out His love upon us and called us sons and daughters of God.
Photo credit: Getty Images/master1305
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they just contracted the sequel, “Den.” Find out more about her here.