Summary: In today’s passage, James wants to keep us from the deception that being religious is merely going through a set of rituals and motions. James doesn’t want us to be deceived into thinking the more I exemplify religious behavior the more spiritual I am. Le
INTRODUCTION: Preventing deception is a major theme for James (1:1:16, 22, 26). In today’s passage, James wants to keep us from the deception that being religious is merely going through a set of rituals and motions. James doesn’t want us to be deceived into thinking the more I exemplify religious behavior the more spiritual I am. There is religion that’s pure and true. Let’s take a look at what James says the definition of real religion is.
1) Impure religion is:
• Legalistic. Matt. 12:1-14. There’s a saying that goes, “some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good’. I think one of the reasons for that is they are legalistic in their religion and not focusing on the principle of love. Legalism takes the command and removes love from it. Legalism and love do not go hand in hand. Jesus loved without compromising on the principle that God intended. William Barclay’s commentary: ‘We can’t make ritual a replacement for service. We can’t make religion splendid within the church at the expense of neglecting it outside the church. This is by no means to say it is wrong to seek to offer the most splendid worship within God’s house but it is empty and idle worship unless it sends a person out to love God by loving his fellow man and to walk more purely in the tempting ways of the world’. When the ordinances of the word become for me just a strict duty to uphold without taking into consideration the needs of others then my religion is impure and worthless.
• Hypocritical. Matt. 23:1-7, 23-28. Jesus pointed out that the religion of the Pharisees was shallow and hypocritical. A hypocrite is someone who tries to convince everyone that they’re something they’re not. Someone who leads a secret double life. Lives a double standard. This is the Pharisees and Jesus highlights that their superficial religious behavior was not indicative of the life they were living. Quote, ‘True religion is the life we live; not the creed we profess’. Anyone can show up to church; anyone can sing songs and participate, anyone can listen to the sermon. Anyone can appear religious, but in order to be religious, one needs to go from listening to the word inside the church to going from the church service and doing the word outside the church. Anyone can pretend to be holy and righteous but the one who practices holiness and righteousness in their daily living is the one who practices true religion.
• Deceiving. Acts 17:22-23. These men were very religious but yet they weren’t worshipping the one, true God. In verses 24 and following Paul explains to them who the one, true God is, the maker of heaven and earth. The God who created them and desires that they would seek him. In verses 29-31 Paul explains their error in creating all those objects of worship. So we see that these men of Athens were regarded as very religious people. Some may have thought that they were wise and holy. But the problem is that their religion was worthless because their worship was not true worship. Their religion was not true religion. They weren’t seeking to have a relationship with the one, true God. There are many people like that today. They are religious but they are not seeking to have a relationship with the one, true God, the God of the bible. And there are those who say they are worshipping the one true God but their worship is based on mere ritual rather than relationship. These are deceived into thinking their religion is pure and faultless.
2) Real religion is when we are:
• Controlled (vs. 26). James could’ve mentioned anything here. “If anyone considers himself to be religious yet does not_____”. Although I believe you could fill in the blank with other things and have justification for doing so, the text singles out controlling the tongue. But why? What is it about the tongue that holds so much weight regarding a person’s true religiosity? You’re telling me that I can do all this religious stuff and if my tongue is not in check that renders all these others things as worthless? How? Here’s what James is trying to get across here. I can shout all the “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords” inside of these church walls but when I go out from here and transition into “f--- you” and “go to hell” then my religion, my words inside of church, are deemed worthless. Because who am I fooling? If I hear you say to someone, “Jesus loves you” inside of church but then I hear you say to someone outside of church “let me tell you something you no good pain in the…” then what am I going to think? Am I going to think that what I heard from you inside the church was the real you or what I heard from you outside the church? What we say inside the church isn’t as important as what we’re saying outside of it. If we’re not consistent then our religion is worthless. Some people have their wonderful “Sunday speech” followed by their terrible “Monday mouth”. Now, I’m not saying that someone who has a slip of the tongue on occasion renders his religion worthless. I’m not condoning or justifying it but I don’t think James is saying if you don’t keep your tongue in check 100% of the time then you’re a hypocrite. But James is highlighting that if we think we’re religious but we don’t control what’s coming out of our mouths then we are deceiving ourselves. 3:9-12. Once while John Wesley was preaching, he noticed a lady in the audience who was known for her critical attitude. All through the service she sat and stared at his new tie. When the meeting was over, she came up to him and said very sharply, Mr. Wesley the strings on your bow tie are much too long. It’s an offence to me. He asked if any of the other ladies happened to have a pair of scissors. When the scissors were handed to him, he gave them to his critic & asked her to trim the streamers to her liking. After she clipped them off near the collar, he said, are you sure they’re al right now? She said yes that is much better. Wesley said, then let me have those scissors a moment, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I also make a correction. I must tell you that your tongue is an offence to me-it’s too long! Please stick it out; I’d like to take some off”. Pure religion is controlled speech.