If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:26-27
If you’re taking the time to read this today, you probably share the belief that we want our faith to be meaningful, so when we read that some approaches to religion are worthless it can be a little disconcerting, right?
Usually, we think of followers of other world religions that fail to believe in Christ as the Savior, but James is addressing those of us who profess the Name. According to James, a man (or woman) who gives no thought to the power of their words is deceived. So, true followers will listen before they speak and their words will be true and filled with grace we have already received.
Also, the Gospel is intended to be positive toward others. Not just in the words that we say, but in our actions toward others. Caring for “orphans and widows” speaks to our generosity and care for others, but it’s more than the formality of writing a check, it’s our loving response to the Gospel. Let’s consider the following question regarding our motives.
Why? Why do we express love toward others? Is it to earn favor or is it a response to God’s favor?
Finally, but importantly, James instructs us to “keep oneself unstained from the world.” The world around us is changing at a rapid pace. Just a few years ago, I remember tuning in to a news program featuring two women passionately defending one side or the other. The topic? They were debating whether or not parental consent is necessary for a child to have transgender surgery. While it may still (and should) concern us, the culture and our government are moving to normalize what should not be.
So, topics that were once taboo are now mainstream, but this provides an opportunity for each of us to stand. Based on the verses above –
- We stand by speaking truth in love, but never compromising truth.
- We stand by reaching out in love to those in our community.
- We stand by pursuing a life that pleases God in every way.