In these two verses James makes a stark contrast between what is perceived religion and what is true religion; what honors God and what does not honor Him. Later in chapter 3, James spends ten verses talking about the tongue and how it is a "restless evil" and cannot be tamed by man and in verse 26 of chapter 1 we see a taste of that idea. In this verse, James says that if someone thinks that they are appropriately following Jesus, yet has a tongue that is unguided or out-of-controlled, then he is deceived in his estimation of his own piety. Why is he deceived? He is deceived because the very God he claims to follow is not the One guiding the content of what comes out of his mouth. Rather, that man's words are guided by his flesh. This is apparent because the result of the man's belief and lack of control over his mouth does not honor God and his worship is of no actual value. Alternatively, verse 27 details the way in which God sees "pure and undefiled religion." God is honored when people who say they worship God do the things of God, namely care for the weak and pursue holiness. These things don't save us, but they help prove the reality of a changed heart. Even though the world (and oftentimes our hearts) devalue the laborious and "inglorious" task of pursuing holiness and serving others, we need to remember that God says those things honor Him. May the Lord give us grace to continue worshipping Him by helping us in the task of serving those in need and striving to be like Jesus.
Main point summary
True religion worships God by actively caring for those in need and pursuit of holiness.
If anyone thinks himself to be religious,
If someone believes that he fears God
and yet does not 1 a bridle his tongue
and yet he does not have control over his mouth
but deceives his own heart,
then , even though he thinks he fears God, he shows that he in fact does not; he is deceived.
this man’s religion is worthless.
and as a result of this lack of verbal self control, this man's worship of God has no value.
Pure and undefiled religion a in the sight of our God and Father is this:
Alternatively , God sees unsoiled and perfect religion as...
to b visit c orphans and widows in their distress,
caring for orphans and widows (literally and those in need) as they have needs arise.
and to keep oneself unstained 1 by d the world.
and having unblemished character; not being tainted by the evil of the world.
One can be deceived: even though he says he fears God, his words may prove otherwise.
A man's worship is worthless when he believes that he fears God, yet lacks control over what comes out of his mouth.
A man's worship honors God when he cares for others and keeps away from the evil of the world.