This Day in History: 0000-05-16

May 16 – James 1:26-2:1 

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 

These are three jam-packed verses, am I right? Oh, how rich the Word of God is. We may be tempted to pull one or two of the warnings here away from the others and hold them up alone, but friends, there is great danger in that. This passage was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is meant to be taken together – even though it seems a little disjointed. Let’s look at it now. Lord, give us wisdom!  

There have been a lot of terrible things done throughout time in the name of religion! As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re not looking to simply DO things. We’re not looking for ritual or regulation. We’re looking for a relationship with our Lord and Savior that changes everything about who we are! If we claim to be religious, and don’t live a life conformed to the image of Jesus, this passage tells us our religion is worthless. Worthless! Why waste our time? 

What isn’t wasting our time? According to this passage, there are four markers that will distinguish the difference between worthless religion and something that is deemed “pure” in the sight of God. Pure religion is not any one of these four things. It is all four of them working together. A true follower of Jesus – someone who is living under the leading of the Holy Spirit will noticeably stand out for all of these four things. 

  1. A controlled tongue.
    This will be someone who does not gossip, does not speak badly of others, is not quick to spout off when she is frustrated or angered, builds people up with her words rather than tearing them down, does not waste her time in idle chatter, and is generally controlled when it comes to what comes out of her mouth. 
  2. Selflessness & care for the helpless.
    Orphans and widows are among some of the world’s most helpless… especially at the time James was written. We should still be quick to care for orphans and widows, but I think the concept reaches beyond that. I believe it is describing someone who lives his life selflessly. He isn’t just looking to care for himself or his own household, but has his eyes open to the needs of those around him and is quick to help where he can!
  3. Steadfastness or incorruptibility.
    In other words, someone who is not easily swayed by the latest popular wisdom from this month’s “experts.” This is someone who knows and understands the Word of God and does not waver from it! She is grounded. Immovable.  
  4. Fairness, and a love for all people.
    Someone who does not show favoritism. Not to the rich, and not to the poor. Not to the popular and not to the marginalized. He is someone who loves all people. All of them. Because he understands that each and every one is created in the image of God and is precious to Him. He understands that we all need Jesus equally.  

Praise God we are His very own children! We don’t need to waste our time in worthless religion. We can live our lives free from those traps and confines. We can allow the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. May we ask Him today to make us like Him. May He give us a controlled tongue, a selfless heart, an incorruptible mind, and a love for all people! In Jesus’s Name, amen!