Verse of the Day Devotion: James 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James 1:27
In our focus verse, we see the word ‘religion’ used, which is seldom used within the scriptures. The word here generally speaks regarding keeping the external requirements. This is how the devout Jews of that day saw true religion, especially those who were in leadership. James here does not see true religion this way. He sees it as a much deeper idea. For purposes of clarity, I will use the phrase ‘Christian Walk’ rather than religion going forward.
He starts out with the phrase ‘pure and undefiled’. This refers to a genuine and sincere walk with Christ. We should strive for this type of walk which is real and sincere. It should be one that God Himself sees as genuine. The Jews believed that as long as they fulfilled all the rituals of the Law, then everything was OK. They saw the outward expression as a picture of what was a true or false type of religion. However, James lays out the premise that there are two ideas regarding a genuine walk with God: the external and the internal.
In the verse prior to our focus verse we read the following, ”If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26. There is an external component with a genuine Christian walk. James uses the words we say as an example; however, it encompasses all of our behavior. As I heard many years ago, we must not only do the do’s, but we also must not do the don’ts. Yes, we must focus on both sides. We must not yell and curse at anyone, but we must also encourage and show others we love them.
So, in our focus verse, James mentions two things that show a genuine Christian walk. First, that we are to love and assist others where needed. “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,” James 1:27a. In this we imitate God. And this is what we should do. “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5. In the days of James, the Jewish leadership did not regard the widows and orphans as important. So, he uses this as a clear example of how we are to act. We are to help those who have no means to help themselves, and in this we show them the love of God.
In the same verse we see an internal component. “and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27b. Paul put it like this, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. We must no allow ourselves to act as the world does, no matter what pressure is placed upon us. We must strive for perfection, not just better. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. Unfortunately, we will not always be perfect. But when we do sin, then we must confess it to God, and He will forgive us.
It is important we see that our Christian walk must be lived both internally and externally. This is the mark of a genuine relationship with God. That we show love by meeting the needs of those who need us, and to strive to be like Him. By fulfilling the internal, the external will come naturally. This is what God desires of us, and He will be with us to help in making it happen. He wants us to be genuine and real, both in our desire to have our heart changed, and in the love we have for Him and our fellow man.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.