Jarrod Jacobs: Pure Religion
In the book of James, we read, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:26-27). These two verses give us a picture of what it means to be truly religious. These verses provide an “overview” of the life of a Christian. Men forget that being “religious” is something that involves every aspect of life, and not just when we assemble to worship (Rom. 12:1-2; II Cor. 5:14-15).
Since there are many who have given religion a “bad name”, being “religious” or having a “religion” is considered shameful by some. Some look at religion as manipulative, as a money-making scheme, as an attempt for political power, etc. The reason people look at religion this way is that there are those who have called themselves “religious” who have been guilty of these very sins! Thus, when someone talks about religion, they think of the charlatans, and then project that same feeling upon anyone calling himself religious. These people want nothing to do with “religion.” If we allow men to be the standard for religion, I don’t blame folks for being disgusted!
Read James 1:26-27 again. What is God’s definition of religion? I believe if we learn what God’s definition is, we will see that it is far different from man’s definition! I believe that almost anyone would say that doing things God’s way would be an acceptable “religion”!
Pure religion involves three things: the mind, the words, and the deeds of man. We see that if a man “seems to be religious” but has deceived his heart, and has not “bridled his tongue” then his religion is vain (useless, of no profit). James 1:26 shows us that a man who is not practicing pure religion is in this condition because his heart is deceived and his tongue (speech) is unbridled. Yet, if someone would have a pure heart and a bridled tongue (Jas. 3), this would result in pure religion.
James 1:27 says “pure and undefiled religion” is apparent in the one who “visits the fatherless and widows … and keeps himself unspotted from the world.” In other words, our deeds need to match what God has revealed. He wants us to show love to our neighbor (Matt. 22:39). We must show care and concern for those who have no way to pay us back! When our deeds do not match God’s words, we are disobedient. When we claim to be a Christian but do not do the things God has said, it makes us hypocrites! Is it any wonder the world thinks being “religious” is a bad thing when we think about the many who claim to be Christians but do things in opposition to what God has said?
Let us go back to God’s definition of pure religion. Let us then take God’s word and use it as the mirror that it is (Jas. 1:22-25). Let us examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5) and make sure we are living in the manner that God wants us to live. True, genuine living, not hypocritical living, will benefit us as well as those who are watching us (Matt. 5:14-16)! Let us live what the Lord taught us in James 1:26-27!
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