Main point summary
James teaches us that religion can be pure or worthless. Live in a way that demonstrates pure religion in the eyes of God, visiting orphans and widows and by keeping yourself unstained by the world.
Reminds me of: Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world... 1Peter 1:16 Be Holy because I am holy
It really is much more about what God sees than what we think about ourselves (27a compared to 26a). What comes out of our mouth is an expression of our heart (26 b/26c). This sort of living is worthless, therefore resulting in death. This is not the type of religion we should be seeking. Instead we learn what should be sought. The pure and undefiled religion as God sees it. Specific instruction is given to visit the orphans and widows. These two groups would have been the marginalized people in that society. Today in the culture I live, this is generally not the case. I still think we can learn from the principle that is taught and consider who are the marginalized among us? Those are the people we should demonstrate care and compassion to. But don't stop there! You must also keep unstained by the sin of the world. And to know what that sin is, you need to know God's word. And to actually be able to remain unstained, you need the Holy Spirit.
If anyone thinks himself to be religious,
If you think to yourself, I am religious (doing everything right in the sight of God)
If anyone thinks he is religious
and yet does not 1 a bridle his tongue
and you are not at all careful with your words
q and does not bridle his tongue
but deceives his own heart,
but you deceive your own heart
but deceives his heart,
this man’s religion is worthless.
whatever it is that you believe ( your religion 26b ) will get you nothing
this person’s r religion is worthless.
Pure and undefiled religion a in the sight of our God and Father is this:
Pure ( perfect ) and undefiled ( clean ) religion in the view (the only view that matters) of God our Father is this:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to b visit c orphans and widows in their distress,
( this is 27a)taking care of the poor and needy (in our culture and society)
to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained 1 by d the world.
and to keep yourself free from the sin of this world ( be holy ).
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
The Christian life is much more about what God sees than what we think about ourselves (27a compared to 26a). What comes out of our mouth is an expression of our heart (26b/26c). This sort of religious life is worthless in the eyes of God. This is not the type of religious life we should be seeking. Instead, James teaches that pure and undefiled religion as God sees it is what is really of value. Specific instruction is given to visiting the orphans and widows in their times of trouble. These are two groups of people who would have been marginalized in James' day. Today, in the society that I participate in, this is generally not the case. However, I think we must apply this principle to our society today. Who are the marginalized among us? Who are the needy? Who is in affliction or trouble? These are the people we should be demonstrating care and compassion to. But don't stop there! You must also keep yourself from being stained from the sin in the world. The world and society in which you live that you are caring for others in. To do this, to be pure and undefiled, we need the word of God to teach us, the acceptance of grace so that we are seen as Holy because of the atonement work of Jesus on the cross, and the Holy Spirit for ongoing sanctification.