Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. ~James 1:27
Some questionnaires we might be asked to complete will have the question, “What religion or religious faith are you?” The word “religion” has been accepted as meaning, “What is your faith persuasion? What do you practice? What is it that you believe in?” However, as we will see this morning, the words “religious” and “religion” as used by James have a much deeper meaning and powerful implication. Let us see this morning what “pure religion” is.
We see the definition of pure religion.
The words “religion” and “religious” are specific to the worship of God. It is a very narrow meaning with respect to the worship of the one true God. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth,” John 4:24. True worship is with a heart that is pure and clean from sin. Worship is performed with the heart and in all sincerity. Approaching God in worship is never to be about what we can get from God, but is always about what we are giving to God. The word “pure” has the idea of metal that has been purified in fire. Worship always refers to a relationship and devotion to God. So, when James refers to pure religion, the deeper question for us is, “Do we have a relationship with God that is clean, clear, and close?”
We see the duty of pure religion.
Pure religion begins with our relationship with God. Pure religion is depicted through our responsibility. It is about how we practice our worship. In pure religion, we worship God with our spirit and pour out our hearts before Him. We demonstrate pure religion through our concern and care for the needy. Our duty is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. In the first century, there were no government programs to help the fatherless and widows. They were the most destitute members of society. They lived from day to day scraping by with whatever they could. As with today, every day people became indifferent to seeing this needy group and passed them by. James is telling us that pure religion has a duty to make ministering to this needy group a high priority. The visitation is to encourage, pray for, assist, and provide as needed. This is what Acts 6 called “the daily ministration.” Does your worship of God bring the needy before you?
We see the discipline in pure religion.
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” Our tongues can get us into a lot of trouble. Our relationship with God is to be so sincere and sweet that we are to be people who are quick to hear, but slow to speak. The discipline of the tongue is to bridle it from boastful talk, critical speech, slanderous attack, and vile cursing. What comes out of a man reveals what is really happening in the man. An unbridled tongue depicts a worthless or vain religion. In other words, it casts great credibility doubts upon your relationship with God.
We see the decency in pure religion.