True religion is of substance, that is, obedience to God in love for Him.
Two alternatives are presented here: false, worthless religion that offends God (James 1:26) vs. true, helpful religion that is pleasing to God (James 1:27). Read 1:26. This verse asserts that religion is vain that does not practice self-control over the heart. This is a person who does not acknowledge that his heart is sinful & corrupt, in need of reform. Seeing his heart as good, he lets his speech flow freely from his heart (for "out of the heart the mouth speaks," Matthew 12:34 ). He puts no filter on himself because he is not aware of how God sees & judges his heart. Alternatively, notice verse 27 asserts that religion is pleasing to God when it is of substance, namely that of caring for the people God cares for, and that of devotion to Him & Him alone. Perhaps key to understanding this passage is keeping in mind the instruction from 1 Samuel 16:7, that though man looks on our outward appearance, God looks at our hearts. Therefore, in order for religion to be pleasing to God, it must be pleasing from the heart. Praise God for Christ, whose heart was completely pure, and out of His pure heart he willingly died for what the deeds of our hearts deserve. Yet, even more than that, Christ graciously gives us new hearts, changing us from the inside out to love what God loves.
If anyone thinks he is religious
If anyone thinks of himself as a worshipper of God
q and does not bridle his tongue
and yet does not practice self-control over his speech
but deceives his heart,
but instead tells himself he's okay,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
then this person's worship is vain.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
On the other hand, clean & untainted worship before God the Father (who sees our hearts) is this:
s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction,
to care for the oppressed in their anguish
and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
and to guard against worldly idolatry.