Thursday, April 23, 2009

True Religion is This

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. James 1:27

Our elders have been preaching through James on Sunday mornings, and so I've been reading through it on my own as well. What a book. I think it's becoming one of my favorite books in the Bible!

I used to be rather confused and disturbed by this verse. "So, he's saying that true religion is looking after orphans and widows, and staying pure? Isn't that missing a few components?!"

However, I believe I'm beginning to understand the power in this verse. He is using a figure of speech that would be similar to my saying, "Really cleaning your house is dusting the cobwebs and flipping the mattresses." Now, am I actually saying that cleaning your house consists of dusting cobwebs and flipping mattresses? (Ah, I wish.) No!

I'm implying, by using those two examples, that if you get to the cobwebs and flipping the mattresses, the rest of your house must be in ship-shape. We all know that you must be quite organized and diligent if you do those two things, so we'd assume that your toilets are shiny and your laundry is done.

So I thought of Christ's summary of what it means to follow God.

The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Okay, we can see how James' first summary "look after orphans and widows" relates to the second of Jesus', "Love your neighbor". If I'm really loving my neighbor as myself, people (like orphans and widows) who are truly desperate or needing help will find my hand and heart open to them.

How does James' second 'bottom-line' relate to Christ's greatest commandmant, to Love the Lord our God with all...?

The NLT translates it like this: refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Here's what my mind went to upon reflecting on how these two relate.

A bride-to-be will tell you that she loves her fiance...she can probably go on and on about how wonderful he is, how fierce and passionate her love for him is. But if she went out and gave herself to another man, would you believe her? No! That would be the epitome of betrayal. She would be revealed as a counterfeit, and no matter how much she protested otherwise, all she said would be empty and meaningless.

This parallels how our relationship to this world reveals whether our faith is real - whether our "religion" is pure. To love God with everything we have will mean some radical changes. To embrace His way is to reject the seducing appeal of what the world has to offer. (By "the world", I'm referring to the elements of man's rebellion against His Creator, and ultimately, self and Satan's rule on this earth.)

You will not find a genuine Christian who can walk in both places. I would submit, in fact, that the real follower of Christ will become increasingly disenchanted with the cheap treasures this world has to offer, as his soul tastes of the intoxicating riches of Heaven.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

I love the book of James, too! If you ever want to, you should go to our church's website ( and listen to my Dad's sermons on James. He's been preaching through it and they are amazing, thought provoking messages!!