Summary: Typically, a person's idea of being religious is just going through rituals and practices associated with the faith. In James 1:26-27 God defined what it means to be religious. So regardless of what we think it means we need to learn what God said it is.
ARE YOU RELIGIOUS? (part one)
INTRODUCTION: When people would ask me if I was religious I would say, no, because to me, being religious kind of had a negative connotation. Because typically, a person's idea of religious is going through rituals and practices associated with the faith. But to me it was so much more than that. Because anyone can go through the motions without being sincere in their devotion to God. Interestingly, God has his own definition about it means to be religious. So regardless what we think it means, we should learn what God has said it is.
What is religion? Probably if you ask different people you'll get different answers. Theologians are good at taking something and using a lot of intellectual words to describe it. Here is an example of a theologian’s definition of religion; “Religion originates in an attempt to represent and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration, it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses.”
Did you get all that? No, well, good, now I don't feel as bad. I think God has given us a more simplistic idea of what religion is. James 1:26-27, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 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."
This is pure religion. There are religious activities and religious observances but the heart of religion is what we find here in James. James is good at defining things. He did it here with religion and he does it in the next chapter regarding faith. James cuts through the idea of what something is and highlights the reality of what something is. And it really has to do with showing proof. It's like he's from Missouri; the 'show me' state. You say you have faith? Show me. You say you're religious? Show me. James highlights a few 'show mes' when it comes to being religious.
Pure religion is keeping a tight rein on my tongue. First one's pretty easy, right? Not!
1) Why the tongue?
There could have been any number of things James could've mentioned that would've been important. Why single out the tongue? It's really about total self-control. If the tongue is in check then the rest of you will be too.
James 3:2-8, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison."
James highlights that if we are able to keep our tongue in check then the rest of us is in check. Think of how we can develop self-controlled in things like our diet or in overcoming addictions, but when it comes to our mouth it's a different story. James focuses on the fact that although the tongue is a small part of the body it is so powerful. Words carry so much weight. With them we can make someone's day or we can break it. A beating hurts for a minute but the pain from words has no limit.
In northern New Mexico, at around 5 AM on July 16, 1945, the still dark early morning sky became as bright as the noonday sun. In that one blinding flash, the Atomic Age had begun. The atomic fireball shot upwards at 360 feet per second. The characteristic mushroom cloud formed at 30,000 feet. All that remained on the ground at the blast site were chunks of green radioactive glass that had been created by the incredible heat of the explosion. What unbelievably destructive power as was later found out when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.