Killing The Orphan Care Hero Complex


Will you introduce the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned to the Rescuer? In the end, all of your efforts for them are meant to point to Jesus - not yourself.

I generally try to share things that motivate people to consider their role in caring for the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned. I want to encourage them to take on a more magnified and awe-filled perspective of the Gospel of their rescue and redemption through Jesus and challenge them to demonstrate that story of rescue and redemption into the lives of others - specifically vulnerable kids and struggling families. The ultimate aim is to move people into greater depths of intimacy with Jesus and drive them towards greater demonstrations of who He is and what He stands for.

But this post is a bit different - it's more of a word of caution than one of encouragement. It's born out of a great concern that perhaps, if we're not careful, our care of orphans can become shrouded in an evangelical hero complex that makes it more about us than it is about them. In the end, our great works can be promoted on the backs of the vulnerable to the detriment of making Jesus known as the true Hero in all of this. 


Our call to care for orphans is more about the help they need than it is about our need to help. We cannot use orphan care as the means by which we gain some personal sense of fulfillment, purpose or meaning. Only Jesus can provide that for us. The last thing orphans need is us using them to mask our own personal insecurities by burdening them with the expectation to satisfy our self-righteous need to help someone less fortunate. Orphan care then becomes an idol, and a service project – a work upon which our identity is based and our self-justifying needs are met.

Many of these kids experience horrendous atrocities and injustices in a very short amount of time. They are not trophies for us to put on display so people know how obedient, radical and missional we are. The end goal of our obedience in caring for orphans is not the display of our own obedience - it's what a child may greatly gain through what we are called to lose - namely, ourselves. It’s about what is best for the them, not what is glamorous or daring or risky or evangelically sexy for us.


Fostering and adopting abused, neglected, marginalized and orphaned children is a big deal, but it expresses itself primarily through very small, very menial, very hidden tasks that go largely unnoticed. The rude realities of orphan care find themselves up for 3am feedings, changing a diaper of a baby that's not even yours for what seems to be the 100th time that day, on the phone with case-workers, lawyers, doctors and government departmental offices, filling out stacks of paperwork, sitting through court hearings, driving across the city for parent visits and trying to raise thousands of dollars to bring a child home from another country. This is a far cry from putting our super hero capes on while parading our multi-racial family down the hall at church or through the aisles of the grocery store hoping people will notice how awesome we are.

Yes, orphan care is a big deal, but its grandness is not measured by the public fame it produces but by the private faithfulness it requires…when no one is around to see, no one cares and there's no chance that you'll ever earn a prize for it or be given a cape to wear because of it.


The hard but glorious call of the Christian life, in all arenas, is to lose yourself in order to truly find yourself in Jesus (Matthew 16:25). It's to humbly take up the cross of your own death daily so that in Jesus you may find life (Luke 9:23). The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus never calls us to do anything that He hasn't first willingly, joyfully and perfectly done for us. His call for us to lose our lives is but a mere signpost to the great loss He endured on our behalf. His call for us to carry the cross is but a shadow of the death He joyfully embraced in our place.

In light of the Gospel, our call to care for the marginalized, abused and orphaned is the joyous privilege we have to lose ourselves for their sakes because He first lost Himself for ours. We carry the burden of their plight because He first carried the unjust and undeserved weight of ours to His death. He is the Hero in all of this - we are but shadows. He is the Hero - we are but signposts.

On the Cross, Jesus dealt a decisive death blow to our hero complex leaving room for only one hero in the Gospel - and it's not us. This is our great hope, that we as the rescued ones might introduce the marginalized, oppressed and orphaned to the Rescuer. In the end, all of our efforts for them are ultimately meant to point to Him - not us.

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