Pure Religion

Scripture: James 1:27, ‘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.’


Observations: The word ‘religion’ is pretty rare in Scripture. It is only used 4 times, twice by James (1:26,27), and twice by Paul (Acts 26:5; Col 2:18). Paul uses it in a negative sense to describe his pharisaic religion (Acts 26:5), and the worship of angels (Col 2:18). And even James uses it a little tongue in check i.e. ‘whoever considers himself religious (v26)’ and ‘religion that God accepts as pure,’ as opposed to every other religion that is impure. The Bible doesn’t want us to be religious, rather we are called to love God, or to have faith in Jesus, or to follow Jesus. James is almost asking a hypothetical question: if we were to be religious, than an acceptable religion would be to look after orphans and widows and keep oneself from being polluted by the world. According to James real religion is intensely practical, it cares for those in need and it thinks and acts like God would, as opposed to how the world does. The word ‘world’ is used to describe humanity’s intrinsic rebellion against God, sin. Unfortunately, we are all polluted to one degree or another by the world. James isn’t saying we can find acceptance with God if we do the right things, rather he is holding up an ideal that we should be aiming for, as people who put their faith in Jesus Christ.


Application: Do you consider yourself a religious person – someone who loves God, and goes to church, and reads their Bible, and prays? James challenges us to consider our religious response to God in more practical terms i.e. to care for orphans and widows, and to keep ourselves from worldly thinking and worldly attitudes. The danger is that we can think we’re doing okay when we’re missing a huge chunk of what it means to be godly. The Pharisees tithed, but they neglected justice (Mt 23:23). What are you neglecting in your life?


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You have called me to Yourself through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ, but in doing so You have also called me to live as Your child in this world. Lord free me from a religion that seeks to earn Your acceptance, and instead fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might live out a religion that seeks to honour You in faithful obedience. Lord, thank You for the things that I do that bring You honour, and forgive me for those areas in my life where I still fall short. Lord, convict me by Your Spirit that I might take captive every area of my life and surrender all of my life to Yoru Lordship. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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