Pure and Undefiled Religion
How foolish would it be to argue over the arrangement of deck chairs on a sinking ship? When we lose sight of what matters, we can engage in misguided futility.
In the church, we can sabotage ourselves with holy hairsplitting. We can “strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Mat 23:24). Paul warns against being preoccupied with the trivial. To Timothy, Paul says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2Ti 2:23)
We are wise to major in the majors, in what really matters. James, the brother of Jesus, gets to the heart of the matter and offers a beautifully simple and elegant summary of a Christian walk that pleases God. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (Jam 1:26,27)
James directs us to three matters of true importance. First, watch what you say. You don’t have to say a lot. Just speak thoughtfully (Jam 1:19). Make sure that what you do say strengthens, encourages, and brings others closer to God (Eph 4:29).
Second, help orphans and widows. Look for the underdogs around you and seek to lift them up (Matt 25:31-46).
Third, don’t participate in the worldliness around you. You’ve died to sin. Don’t live in it anymore (Rom 6:1,2). Instead, walk in obedience of faith in God and be careful to devote yourself to good works out of grateful love to God for your salvation.
If you’re majoring in the majors, you’ll keep your words and actions pure, and you’ll lovingly serve the needy around you. If you’re majoring in the majors, you’ll imitate Jesus (1Joh 2:4-6), and your religion will therefore be pure and undefiled before God the Father (Jam 1:27).