If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
There is so much here… where to begin? First, by saying “OUCH!” That whole keeping-a-rein-on-the-tongue thing…
But let’s move on… quickly.
1. Look after orphans and widows in their distress
I love the simplicity of this. What is it about orphans and widows? In AD 55, widows and orphans were lower than slaves on the economic ladder. At least slaves were going to get shelter and food for their labor.
I wonder that James didn’t mention men who were jobless or homeless. But then, I suppose he expected those who COULD work to be in much better straits than those who could not.
Most, if not all, of my coworkers and random strangers I encounter act like they have no needs. No problems. It’s part of the game of being an American. You project success, strength, vitality, confidence. Even the slightest hint of weakness leaves you vulnerable as prey.
But there are people, not all that far away from where we stand right now, who have no will to pretend. They cannot benefit from the charades. They have nothing. No reason to play games. Sure, they may still be defensive, hard hearted, or spiteful, but these are the least which Jesus told us to love and care for.
2. keep oneself from being polluted by the world
And to keep this post legal, I’ll touch on #2: Keep oneself from being polluted by the world. There are very few thoughts on my mind as much as this. Does this statement remind you of another command in Scripture?
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
There’s something about the pattern, the rhythm, the culture of the world. It’s a culture that deafens ears and hides light. There are 101 ways to twist truth and thwart people from reaching their destinies. The darkness of men’s hearts has led them to worship lifeless things. To pour our hearts into fruitless pursuits. Time meant for the installing of God’s Kingdom on earth wasted. Fleshly pleasures pacify while spiritual pleasures go unexperienced.
The command to keep yourself from being polluted by the world is closely linked with the choice to no longer conform to the world’s patterns. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. And part of that renewing transformation involves not being polluted by the world. Are you polluted? Are you letting the world speak into your life? Is the world painting your understanding of life, love, marriage, friendship, and God for you? Are you a passive canvas, coloured by the noise of secular culture?
Or will you take your energy, time, and passion and pour it into knowing God, renewing your mind, and being transformed into the image of His loving and generous Son, Jesus?