Summary: A sermon about the contradiction between vain and pure religion.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
26 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.
27 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.
Have you ever wondered why there are religious people who seem to be the worse for their religion and others who are equally religious who are the better for theirs? Let me cite a couple of examples from my own experience to illustrate what I mean. First, I have a friend and I do consider him to be a friend, who talks about the church he attends and what is going on in his religious life yet I have learned from more than one source that he is a has a problem with alcohol, he is very religious but his behavior is a source of reproach on the cause of Christ. The second example is similar in that it is a lady who is very religious, attends church frequently, is involved in several aspects of the life of the church but is a notorious gossip! What could possibly explain this kind of contradiction between belief and behavior? Let’s see what the Apostle James has to say in our text:
I. The Inditement of Powerless Religion
a. A dangerous problem – James makes the following observation in verse 26: “If any man among you seem to be religious…” A literal translation of the word “seem” reads like this, “…this indicates his opinion of himself, not necessarily that of others…” FWB Commentary on James
ILL - Man’s capacity for self-deception is unlimited.
b. A revealing behavior – The man who makes this lofty self-estimation but fails to control his tongue is deceived.
ILL - The Japanese have two proverbs we would do well to remember. The first one says, “The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a person six feet high.” The second one warns everyone: “The tongue is more to be feared than the sword.”
ILL - Gary Richmond, a former zookeeper, had this to say: Raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months. After that they often attack their owners. Since a 30-pound raccoon can be equal to a 100-pound dog in a scrap, I felt compelled to mention the change coming to a pet raccoon owned by a young friend of mine, Julie. She listened politely as I explained the coming danger. I’ll never forget her answer.
“It will be different for me . . .” And she smiled as she added, “Bandit wouldn’t hurt me. He just wouldn’t.”
Three months later Julie underwent plastic surgery for facial lacerations sustained when her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason. Bandit was released into the wild. Sin, too, often comes dressed in an adorable guise, and as we play with it, how easy it is to say, “It will be different for me.” The results are predictable.
Gary Richmond, View From The Zoo.
c. An ineffectual purpose – This man’s religion is useless, to no purpose. It is “vain” As a matter of fact this kind of religion is worse than “ineffectual” for it has a very powerful influence of those we come in contact with. George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans) was a Victorian author, editor and translator who was raised in the Christian faith but she later drifted away and eventually renounced it. She had an experience as a young woman with a professing Christian who had told a lie that had come home to her. The woman’s response to having been found out was, “Ah, well, I do not feel that I have grieved the Spirit much!” Elliot was horrified and saw to her disgust that a strong religious feeling could exist with flagrant dishonor! She was never the same again and as one biographer put it, “Her anchor relinquished its hold, and, almost imperceptibly, she drifted away,” into agnosticism.” This was the sin of the Pharisees and scribes for Jesus said:
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.