Main point summary
It is self-deceptive and meaningless to call yourself religious and yet use your tongue in unloving and unholy ways, because real religion that is acceptable to God necessarily involves both love and holiness.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If anyone considers himself to be a holy person
If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself.
q and does not bridle his tongue
and yet does not control his tongue
but deceives his heart,
then he is just fooling himself.
this person’s r religion is worthless.
with the result that his so called "religion" is meaningless
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
Because real religion that is acceptable to God the Father involves at least two things:
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
namely : i) To look after the needy
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and : ii) To avoid sin and pursue personal holiness
In context, this unbridled tongue is likely referring to what James has just been saying in v19-25 - we must stop speaking so that we can listen to God and put what God says into practice.
A person may say they are religious but if they use their tongue in unloving and unholy ways, they are fooling themselves and their religion is a complete waste of time - because real religion that is acceptable to God the Father involves at least two necessary ingredients: i) loving needy people; and ii) pursuing personal holiness. And as Jesus said, our tongues betray the true condition of our hearts (cf. Luke 6:45). We may be able to put up a facade over the short term, but eventually our tongues will betray our lack of love and our lack of holiness. And in any case - we need to stop expressing our own opinions, and start listening to God and putting what we hear into practice. This passage should leave us feeling both repentant and dependent. Repentant in that we acknowledge the lack of love and holiness in our lives as evidenced by our self-expression. And dependent in that we look to Jesus for the forgiveness and help we need to grow in the area of love and holiness.