26 If anyone thinks he is religious q and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s r religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction, and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
Main point summary
My religion is proved to be worthless by lack of good works, or by bad works. Or my religion can be proved to be pure before God by the presence of good works and remaining clean in the world.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If I think I am religious
q and does not bridle his tongue
and I do not control my tongue
but deceives his heart,
then I deceive myself
this person’s r religion is worthless.
therefore my religion is worthless
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
On the other hand , I can have a religion that is pure before God
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
that is by visiting orphans and widows in need
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and by keeping unstained by the world.
If even seemingly small works of obedience such as control of my tongue are lacking, it reveals weakness and worthlessness of my professed religion
On the other hand, by my good actions of visiting orphans and widows, and by remaining clean in the world my religion is proved to be pure before God. Do not be confused and think that actions make us pure. They only prove the religion was pure before the actions came as evidence.
We know that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. However, as we see in James 1 our faith is not faith at all if good works do not follow after the faith. As Martin Luther and John Calvin have said, " We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone". This is what James is teaching in verses 26-27. Our religion is judged on the basis of our works. As James expounds more in chapter 3, the tongue is small but it can be used to devastating consequences. Here James tells us that even something as small as the tongue left uncontrolled can be proof of a false and worthless religion. James also shows us the alternative of good works proving that our religion and therefore our faith is pure and true. James gives us three good works, taking care of widows and orphans in need, and remaining pure in the world. Jesus said, "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). We must be careful, these good works to not justify us. Romans 3:28, " For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." Good works only serve as proof and a way of testing whether our religion is pure and undefiled before God, or if it is worthless.