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.
26 If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before 31 God the Father 32 is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
26 Εἴ τις δοκεῖ θρησκὸς εἶναι μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν γλῶσσαν αὐτοῦ ἀλλʼ ἀπατῶν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, τούτου μάταιος ἡ θρησκεία. 27 θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.
Main point summary
The surprising way we lead ourselves astray is countered by truth in action.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If someone thinks he is religious
If someone considers himself devoted to God,
q and does not bridle his tongue
yet does not bridle his tongue,
yet, contrary to what is fitting in one who is devoted to him, by means of his failure to restrain his tongue,
but deceives his heart,
and so deceives his heart,
Leads his heart astray,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
his religion is futile.
then, his devotion to God is rendered impotent [since it is not grounded in truth].
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
Pure and undefiled religion before 31 God the Father 32 is this:
Because, true devotion to God that is pure and undefiled in God's evaluation works like this:
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune
to look after the relationally impoverished,
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
and to maintain a vigilant resistance to the influence of the world [even as one moves through it while doing good].
It's surprising to think that, for instance, we can be accusing another group of some shortcoming or error and, by our manner of speaking of it, render the impact of our devotion to God useless, corrupting (or at least contaminating) our otherwise godly influence.
Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor (Eccl. 10.1). It is correct to think of the heart as the guiding force behind our words. This is supported in so many passages of Scripture, explicitly so by Jesus (e.g. - Matt 12.34; 15.18; Luke 6.45). But it is also true that we shape and guide our hearts by means of our actions. Jesus states this with regard to our use of material wealth (Matt 6.21; Luke 12.21,34) as does Paul (1 Tim 6.19). And I think here in this passage James is stating that we lead our hearts astray (deceive them) by means of a tongue that goes astray. This idea is reinforced by the kinds of actions James commends in verse 27, which produce or are the product of true devotion to God. Ultimately, however, it comes back to the heart. Wandering words proceed from a wandering (double-minded?) heart. But the point here especially is that a loosening of the tongue to speak the irreligious matters of the heart has a reinforcing/reciprocal effect on the heart itself. In effect, I deceive my heart (v. 26c): by thinking I'm devoted to God (v. 26a), while speaking in a manner inconsistent with a true devotion to him (v. 26b). This idea that the tongue deceives the heart has applicability in ways that are relevant to our present times, such as in giving way to popular sentiment and the means of expressing it. How many are characterized by protest, and how very few by gratitude in action! For instance, concerning the refugee crisis, believers join with the world in taking to Facebook, Twitter and the perhaps even the streets in giving voice to their grievance with the policies and position of the government. Speaking out against actions that we feel are wrongheaded in others--especially those in authority--has the effect of convincing one's own heart that he is giving a fitting expression of one who is devoted to God to the wrongness, or at least siding with justice against those who oppose it. This has the deceptive effect of salving our consciences and persuading us that we are living out the Christian faith, while, at times, also giving us a sense of superiority over those who choose a less vocal tack . Despite what the believer may be able to convince himself regarding this manner of responding, the word from James gives us occasion to pause, to ask the question, "Is my devotion to God a matter of words freely spoken, or does my passion for the Lord and for justice go far beyond this and find expression in costly, personal sacrifice to care for those who have been widowed and orphaned by the tragedy?" When we let our actions be a moderator and even a substitute for our tongues (rather than the other way around), James says that we reciprocate God's faithfulness to us in showing true definition to him and have the opportunity to do some real, tangible good for those who have suffered loss, rather than risk exploiting them further by uniting with the world in using the misfortunes of others as a political plank to prop up our own, worthless "religion."