Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
As we come to the close of the first chapter of the letter of James we cannot escape the challenges he brings as he sets before his readers three characteristics of pure and faultless religion.
The first is that the one whose religion is pure and faultless eschews self-deception and watches their speech.
The second is that such a person must show love, mercy and compassion to the oppressed, using the term ‘widows and orphans’ to encompass this (See Deuteronomy 10.18; Isaiah 1.17 and Jeremiah 7.5-7) and
The third is that this person keeps him or herself from being polluted by the world.
Such people must surely be noticed by the world so it is helpful for our ministry as a church and as individuals to run a diagnostic religion health check and seek to address any areas where we are unwell.
This is something that we each need to do individually before God although others close to us may be able to help by identifying those things which we find hard to see.
In the same vein Micah challenges Israel with these words from God.
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
As we enter the season of Advent, during which these blogs will follow an Advent theme so that we may be well prepared to understand the birth of Jesus in all its wonder, fulness and glorious hope, let us each ask ourselves…..
Is my religion a religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless in the light of the above?
Please don’t misunderstand me!
We are not saved by the things that James put before us in these verses. However if they are not visible in our individual and corporate life then a question mark must hang over our standing before God.