26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Religion. The more and more I study and read God’s Word, the more I come to hate the concept of religion. A man made system of rules and regulations of how we should and should not serve God. It irritates me that we claim to be followers and emulators of Christ, who taught against religion, and we use His words to create a religion. How’s that for hypocritical.
Verse 26, I believe, is pointing out this very hypocrisy. We claim one thing and turn around and do another. But, this is just human nature, isn’t it? Sure it is, which is why we must be intentional in following our beliefs. Too many people claim a religion, a political affiliation, etc. yet do not make much effort to fall in line with those belief systems. We claim something simply to have a sense of belonging, but deep down, we deceive our own hearts. I continue to hold that I think it is more important for someone to truly believe in something (even if others think it is wrong) than to nonchalantly claim to believe in something just because they think it’s what they should do. It’s the “right thing” to be this or that. This is what James is calling out here.
We see in verse 27 God’s definition of “religion,” in a manner of speaking. Taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves and being true to themselves instead of being convinced by the world of what they should do or be. I know this may seem counter-evangelical but actually, it’s not. First of all, it is not up to us to make someone believe, that’s God’s job. As Christians, if we hold true (or do our best) to what we claim to believe (Christ is the Savior, God is omnipotent, God lives in and through us by the Holy Spirit) then spreading the Gospel is natural. It’s not about what we say or even how we say it, but how we live it out. We aren’t supposed to just talk about being saved but we are supposed to live saved. I think this point can also be derived from what James said in verse 26 about bridling our tongues.
We shouldn’t have to tell people we live for Christ, they should know by how we live. If we have to tell people we are something, then we are missing a key aspect. I shouldn’t have to tell someone I’m a Christian, they should see there is something different about me. In a book I recently finished, the author said that evangelism is like, “living lives worth questioning and then offer an apt reply.”
In regards to the majority world, are we living “questionable” lives? Is the way I act, speak, and live extraordinary enough to provoke questioning? What then should be our answer when asked about it?