True religion requires holiness AND sacrifice; however religion without holiness is no religion at all.
The infinite chasm between a holy God and fallen man is sin, that is, our sin. Yet through Christ, a means of reconciliation was secured that bridges the chasm and restores man's relationship with God. All who claim to be rightful worshippers of God must have crossed this chasm and come face to face with the reality of their sin and had their disposition toward sin changed through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. True religion, the proper exercise of worship of our holy God, will always reflect a godly repulsion towards sin and inclination toward the righteousness of God. We also know that the mouth is the mirror that reflects the heart. What comes out of the mouth demonstrates what is inside the heart (Matthew 15:17-18). There is no better means of self-examination than to prayerfully assess the motives behind what we say and do. With these truths in mind, James 1:26-27 powerfully communicates its message by what it DOES say and what it DOES NOT say. Verses 26 and 27 give us two sides of the same coin in order to better help us understand the point. Verse 26 provides the negative example. We are told that anyone who considers themselves to be a proper worshipper of God, yet does not control their speech, is delusional about their faithfulness and their worship is false. Verse 27 provides the positive example and explains that acceptable worship involves both selfless ministry AND practical holiness. In comparing both passages, we see that true religion (verse 27) requires two things, yet false religion (verse 26) only requires the lack of one: practical holiness. Why the lack of symmetry between these verses? Why doesn't verse 26 state that false religion lacks selfless sacrifice AND practical holiness? The reason is that God places a primary and essential emphasis on practical holiness, a life that is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Such an inner transformation is demonstrated by increasingly godly speech, reflecting a work of sanctification taking place in the deepest recesses of our heart. This is highly reminiscent of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:3, in which he says that the sacrifice of our life and possessions without love will bring no personal profit (i.e. it is not legitimate worship). The lack of one thing... the most important thing, renders everything else worthless. True love of God and man will be reflected by a tongue that edifies rather than destroys. In our efforts to serve a holy God, it is easy to get caught up in our ministry activities and believe the sacrifices we make are sufficient to please God. Yet, if we neglect God's primary calling to personal holiness, we render our service meaningless and become spiritually deluded. What a pity to waste our efforts. What an even greater pity to miss the whole point of salvation. God has not called us because of what we can do for Him, but because of what He wants to do in us... reproduce the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
If anyone thinks he is religious
If someone believes themselves to be religious
q and does not bridle his tongue
and yet does not exercise restraint in their speech,
but deceives his heart,
so that their presumed faithfulness becomes a delusion,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
then their religion is truly no religion.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
But true religion that is substantive and beautiful before God, our Father, looks like this:
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
i.e. to minister to the helpless (who can not pay you back) in the midst of their trials,
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and to diligently strive to avoid and resolve sin in your life.