Summary: What does James mean by pure and undefiled religion?
A Study of the Letter of James
September 18, 2013
Read Scripture:James 1:26-27 [show scripture]
26If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Now James starts off with a premise… ‘So you say you are a Christian…’ James tells us in v26, ‘if you believe (think) you are a Christian… a God seeker… one who worships God (in Christ)… one who has professed Christ as Messiah BUT you cannot control your tongue…
The word ‘religious’ used by James here in this verse is the Greek word Thrace-koss which means to fear God or to worship God!
This word carries an underlying message of fear and trembling before a superior force… knowing one’s place before this superior force…
So if you are saying that you are in fear and awe of God and that you worship Him as Lord, knowing His place and your place before Him… with the proper fear of the Lord in your life… IF that is your claim, but you cannot control your tongue…
James tells us that these people are only fooling themselves! Their actions reveal their heart and they are NOT going to ‘fool’ anyone with what they proclaim if their tongue betrays their profession!
James uses the same illustration in v22-23 about being doers of the word and not hearers only…
In v26-27 James is taking another angle on the same issue… James is illuminating the fact that you cannot simply SAY you are a believer, your life must reflect your belief… your life must reflect your convictions!
If you SAY you are a believer but your tongue is not under control… then James says that you are fooling yourself!
But James tells us that profession of faith without controlling one’s tongue not only deceives US, but it is also useless to God in His kingdom.
In v26 James tells us …then his religion is useless…
The Greek term used here by James is actually the adjective Mah-Tay-oss which describes a belief that has no substance to it, a belief without a founding truth, it carries forth NO purpose…
James is saying that if you describe your faith by using mere words… it is useless… meaningless… without purpose! You faith cannot be based on your profession alone.
If our profession of faith is without actions that reflect that profession of faith, then our profession or our ‘religion’ is without substance, without truth… carries NO purpose to even exist!
In other words what James is telling us here is that if our action as a professing believer in Christ does NOT reflect what we say/profess; then what we are professing is empty, void and worthless!
What is your ‘religion’ like? How does it look to the world? Is your ‘religion’ filled with Christ so much so that people see it and are drawn to Him?
OR does the world see you as merely going thru the motions of religion? Does the world see your words or actions as empty and without purpose!
James warns us from portraying a ‘false’ faith in this chapter when he tells us that professing belief without a life filled with actions that reflects that professed belief is also a dead end life… it is a worthless, empty life that has NO purpose for the kingdom!
But James does not leave it at that, but he goes on to give us an example of what living out our faith should look like… Let’s look at v27
27Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Now the word James uses here for ‘religion’ is the Feminine noun version ‘thrace-kiah’ which is from the word form he uses back in v26 for ‘religious’.
This word ‘thrace-kiah’ describes what our profession should be… it means worship revealed externally, thru ceremony or ‘physical actions’.
This word is often associated with ritual (that can become empty) but I believe that here James is using it as positive expression of a person’s faith in Christ. I reflects a faith that is not only VERBALIZED, but it is a professed faith that is put into action to glorify God!
So in other words, James is telling us that PURE worship of God… Undefiled worship of the God we so gladly profess should look a certain way… it cannot be judgmental or prejudice… it cannot be focus on trouble and sorrow… it cannot be filled with doubt… it cannot be focused on self and selfish desires…
James tells us that pure and undefiled religion is…