The Main Thing – James 1:26-28

James 1:26-27   If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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.

As we continue finish off chapter one in James we are confronted by a test of our faith. As we saw in the last passage, and will see more clearly later on, James is concerned with the practical outworking of our faith as confirmation. If we are not living like Christians, the first obvious conclusion is that we are not Christians.

Please understand where I’m coming from. I’m not trying to impose some kind of man-made, legalistic standard that we force on people so that we can judge them. I’m talking about using the Scriptures as our standard and applying what it says about the nature of saving faith to ourselves. The last thing that we could ever want is to deceive ourselves on the most important aspect of eternity — our salvation.

So what is James saying? He just challenged us that to respond properly to confrontation is to listen quickly, wait to speak, and wait to get angry. Now he is taking it a step further and explaining that if you think that you’re “religious” but you can’t control your mouth then you are deceiving yourself and your “religion” is worthless and empty. This is huge! If you claim to be a Christian then you are claiming Jesus Christ. If your life doesn’t look like Jesus then something is not adding up. It’s possible that you are deceiving yourself, either in your salvation or your progress in Christlikeness.

So what does it look like to have saving faith? Well, the first obvious thing here is that we should be continually getting better at listening before we speak and controlling our anger. In addition to that James points out two areas of our lives where we should see evidence of our faith: one is external, the other internal.

If we are practicing pure religion before God it should manifest itself in our love and care for those who are afflicted. James puts a spotlight on two categories of people: widows and orphans. In the eyes of the world, these are the people that need our help the most. And notice that it’s not enough to just say that we care for them, we need to be actually taking care of widows and orphans, which is a shortcut way of saying, “those who are afflicted”.

Next, we need to realize that our faith isn’t just supposed to live itself out externally. This keeps us from having a legalistic “works based” standard of Christianity. But if we have true, genuine faith it will manifest itself in our internal growth in Christ as well. We need to keep ourselves from being stained by this world. The word used for “unstained” has to do with our inward character being “pure” or “without fault” and being filled with internal devotion to Jesus.

So where are you right now? How do you line up with this line of testing? Are you growing in holiness and love for others? If not, let’s remember that we need God’s wisdom to respond properly in every aspect of our lives and let our deficiency draw us closer to Jesus. Only through His power can we grow in our internal love for Him and our external service toward others.