Main point summary
Our religion can be two things: (1) Worthless, because we deceive ourselves into thinking we believe but we don't act it out, or (2) acceptable to God, when our beliefs outflow in loving actions.
Have you ever wondered about people who claim to be Christian, but their walk does not match their talk? And in your mind, maybe even judged them for it? But, if we're honest with ourselves, we know that this is so often true for us, and in these two verses, James makes it very clear the two alternatives we have. We can choose to be like the first person. This person thinks that they are religious, and for all intents and purposes, maybe even thinks that they are a really good Christian. But, they don't even control the words that come out of their mouth, and we know that further on, James has much to say about the destruction that the tongue can cause (c.f. James 3:6). This person, thinking that he is religious, instead deceives himself. Their religion - or may I word it differently here - their faith is worthless. On the other hand, we have described for us a case where a person's religion is considered pure before God. A person's religion is pure when their faith causes an outflow into their life and actions, as we see in the examples that James gives of caring for orphans and widows, and also by not being conformed to the world around us. We have to pause and reflect on our life... Because if we who claim to be Christian believe and follow in Jesus, our Saviour King who showed us the true definition of love (c.f. 1 John 4:10-12), then our lives should be radically different from where we were before. May we ever be praying that God by his Spirit would help us to walk as Jesus walked, that our faith may not be worthless on the day Jesus comes back.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If anyone thinks he is religious,
q and does not bridle his tongue
and furthermore , does not control the words that come out of his mouth,
but deceives his heart,
but instead deceives himself,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
then this person's so-called religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
On the other hand , religion that is pure and acceptable before God is this:
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
to visit orphans and widows as they suffer and struggle in life,
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and to keep yourself from being conformed to the world.
What does deceiving yourself look like? It is thinking that you are part of a religion, when in fact, your actions do not reflect your beliefs. How frightening it would be, to have Jesus on that final day say to you, "Get away from me; I never knew you." (Matthew 7:23)