In the previous verse, James introduced a contrast (1:26). He placed worthless religion next to pure religion (1:27) to demonstrate what “doers of the word” (1:22) look like. Religion refers to the outward expression of inward beliefs. A lack of self-control with one’s tongue demonstrates worthless religion (1:26). But pure religion—religion that is undefiled before God—is demonstrated in two ways. First, it is evidenced by visiting orphans and widows. Second, it is keeping oneself unstained from the world (1:26).
Orphans and widows have a special place in the heart of God. The Bible clearly demonstrates this throughout the Old Testament and New Testament (Ex. 22:22, Deut. 10:18, Ps. 68:5, Isa. 1:17, 1 Tim. 5:3). These folks can feel like outcasts and are sometimes treated as such. They often have no means to support and sustain themselves. James not only provided an active call for God’s people to care for them, but he also stated that caring for them is evidence of pure religion.
Scripture also plainly reveals that God’s people are to pursue purity. Unstained means spotless and without blemish. While no one does this perfectly, the goal of every Christ follower is to pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14). Believers are to set examples in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). In God’s economy, service and ethics are a package deal.
Since the time of Christ, missionaries have lived out the reality of James 1:27. The HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa; the Syrian Refugee crisis; war in Ukraine; and poverty in Moldova, India, and Southeast Asia have all left multitudes of widows and orphans in their wake. Laborers are needed to serve these people to help meet their physical needs. But these dear women and children also need the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Would you be willing to go?
Pray for God to send laborers to reach these orphans and widows. Pray that God would show you the role you can play in praying, sending, or going. Pray that physical relief would come to them. And pray earnestly that spiritual relief will come to them through Jesus and his gospel.
“Heavenly Father, I don’t want worthless religion. I want to demonstrate my faith in service towards people and purity towards you. Show me how to do that more effectively.”
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