Main point summary
Do not be deceived by an empty relationship with God that doesn't bring fruit. Real relationship with God will manifest itself by serving or meeting the needs of others and by becoming distinctly different from the world.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If I think that I'm religious, right with God,
q and does not bridle his tongue
[yet] I do not allow that relationship with God to affect my speech,
but deceives his heart,
But [furthermore] deceive my heart by thinking I'm right with God,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
then my religion, i.e. relationship with God, is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
Here is what practical, lived-out, pure relationship with God looks like:
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
to meet the needs of others in their time of trials
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and to not allow the ways of the sinful world to hinder or effect me.
I'm really lost in this first verse. I'm thinking, "If anyone this he is religious DESPITE not bridling his tongue" or "yet, not bridling his tongue", which leads me to a Concessive connection. However, I'm not sure how that fits with the definition of Concessive. vs 26a doesn't seem to be a stand alone main clause. Then, I'm not sure where vs 26c goes.
Speech is merely an excellent example of thinking we have a relationship with God, yet not producing any fruit of self-control over that speech.
What does relationship with God look like? James tells us that thinking we are religious, that is in relationship with God, is dangerous, when our lives do not bear fruit to show it. Specifically, in this passage, self-control over the tongue is the fruit that is missing. This thinking leads us to deceive ourselves, but our relationship with God is worthless. Next James shows us what a right and good relationship with God will bring as fruit: service to others and being holy.