James 1:26-27 – “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. 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.”
There are three outward marks that evidence whether or not our heart has been given totally over to the religion of Christ. This is called pure and undefiled religion. John Gill defines pure and undefiled religion “That which is sincere and genuine, and free from adulteration and hypocrisy”.
First, if we claim to be religious and cannot control our own mouth then our religion is empty and pointless. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew12:34). This is a concept that primarily defines the unregenerate of this world, but this principle can also teach a disciple what truly characterizes their own life. Basically, the mouth, or even the keystrokes of a keyboard, evidence the position of a heart. We must admit that we all can speak out of turn, but this verse deals primarily with a habit of the mouth. If our mouth is only on the profane, or if it is always filled with anger and hate, then we know where our mind is focused. To apply this more broadly, if our mouth is only speaking of vacations, politics, sports, or any other secular activity and rarely on the word of God then we have shown what is really sitting on the throne of our soul.
The second mark is one of real religion in action. Authentic religion is evidenced by a love for others. We live in a very selfish culture that has the false sense of fellowship found in social media. Recently, over the past couple of months I’ve had multiple people tell me that while they or their loved ones were sick or in the hospital that no one had contacted them. This is a sad indictment against our religious culture. Don’t have the time? You don’t have to spend hours, upon hours in their hospital room or at their house. A simple 5 minute stop is sufficient. Consider it time well spent. Probably better spent than browsing on Facebook. Now I understand that sometimes people do not want to be visited. Sometimes people may be in too much pain or be too sick to have visitors. Some people may just not like company. Then I ask have you contacted the relatives to see how they are doing, or if nothing else to let them know that you are praying for them? All it takes is a phone call, or if nothing else a text message. If we claim Christ and are yet self-absorbed, then we are merely playing church.
Lastly, the final evidence that our religion is true is that we are not acting as the world. We are to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world.” As I have heard it put in the past, a ship rarely does well when it takes on the water. Likewise, our own Christian witness begins to sink as we absorb the ways of the culture around us.
“This verse is not the sum total of what God requires from us, but the outward marks of whether or not love has become the principle that has conquered our hearts.” -The Heritage Reformation KJV Study Bible note for James 1:27
Originally published October 2016