James 1:26-27: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
The book of James is an extremely pragmatic book. I like to call it practical theology, or the theology of shoe leather. Not just teaching the dogmatic principles of the Church, but putting those beliefs to work in our everyday lives, and walking what we believe. James was the half brother of Jesus and the pastor of the largest or at least most popular church of that day, The Jerusalem Church. The one thing that stands out in this letter is that James does not give his resume to make people interested in what it says. He simply begins by saying, “James a bondservant of Jesus.” James was not interested in his position or his status as a “brother” of Jesus. His main purpose was to highlight that it is through servitude that a Christ-follower is most influential.
In that day there were people who considered themselves extremely religious, yet their actions told a different story. That same thought is alive and well in our day as well. We have many who consider themselves religious, spiritual, and of the faith who do not bridle their tongue. The definition of bridle is that of control. We bridle the powerful horse to control the wild nature of the beast. We as Chris-followers need to control our mouth. What does that control look like? Control is not just stopping our selves from yelling and saying dirty jokes. It is saying the kind word when you have no earthly reason to do so. It is encouraging when we ourselves need encouraging. It is talking like a “Christian” so the world will not be turned off by your harshness and insensitive manner. Talking as Jesus talked is a display of controlling the tongue.
James also goes on to say that we who are religious need to get that “shoe leather” moving. Christ-followers are people of action. When we see a need we meet it if it is within our means and when it is not we find someone who can help. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. What does that look like to you? Reaching out to the vulnerable in their distress shows the love of Christ in our hearts. The best way to share Jesus is through compassion and love. The world would say let people pull them selves up by their own bootstraps, and some would say the only thing a kind word will bring are soft and weak citizens. James responds by saying, “keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Old Testament: Ezek. 22-23 New Testament James 2