What good does religion do you?

I hope you're enjoying our slooooooow trek through the book of James.  I love it and, even though I have taught it several times, there are several Truths that I need to be reminded of.  Sort of like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what I look like after I walk away.....

This week's Wednesday's Word will wrap up chapter 1.  Just two verses:             

James 1:26-27

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 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.

First, let's check our context.  In the preceding verses (21-25), James exhorts believers to obey God's Word, clinging to it, embracing it, receiving it in the same way one would receive an organ transplant!  (Although he didn't use that exact phrase....the idea is the same - make His Word a part of your life by meditating on it, memorizing it, and most of all, minding it!)  James warns us that it is highly possible to merely listen to God's Word and never get around to obeying it.  That, he says, is worthless.  That kind of faith will do nothing to change anyone, will not transform them into the image of Christ Jesus.

However, faith that is characterized by obeying the Truth of His Word translates into big results.  Verse 25 says that one who is an "effectual doer" is "blessed in what he does".

And verses 26 and 27 reveals to us some of the blessings that come: one who obeys God's Word is changed in the way she speaks, what she does, and what she loves.

1.  The way she speaks.  "bridle the tongue" - Able to direct the tongue in the way it should....and should not...go.  Speaking words of comfort and encouragement and instruction that need to be spoken.  And NOT speaking words of anger or bitterness or divisiveness.  Controlling the tongue.  The power of life and death are in it, so controlling it by giving life instead of death is a result of embracing God's Word.

2.  What she does.  Caring for those that cannot repay you, those whom the world deems unvaluable - instead of serving/giving/doing in order to be appreciated or recognized or somehow rewarded.  Trademark result of being transformed into the image of Christ.

3.  What she loves.  To "keep onself unstained by the world" cannot happen if we love the world.  If we place value on material things or the approval or men or having a position of power/influence, our life gets stained.  The values of the heart show up in how we live.  Our priorities.  Our longings.  Our responses.  Do we crave attention for our physical appearance?  Then that stain shows up in excessive resources being spent to obtain beauty....as well as in fear of losing the same.  Do we long for recognition in the eyes of others?  Then we become stained by activities that deceive us to believe they offer that approval -- things like debt to acquire "status symbols" or gossip to appear "in the know" or a frantic pace of life based on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and especially pride at having to always appear to be right.

Receiving the Word implanted.....changes the way we speak, what we do, and what we love.  Amen.

James surely packs a lot of punch into just a few words, doesn't he????