Bible Verse: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress James 1:27

Scripture Reading: James 1:19-27

If we allow the faith we are living to define what we believe is religion that God finds acceptable and pure, then the blanks would quite likely be filled in this way:

Religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is… meeting in the church building as often as possible … being involved in multiple Bible studies … filling up our life calendar with as many church activities as possible.

But James defines religion in a different way.

To be fair, James does add another line to his definition of godly religion: “And to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” This is where sin avoidance indeed plays a role in living a life that brings glory to God. The seriousness of sin cannot be excluded from this or any conversation involving bringing glory to God. In our Culture of acceptance, it can be tempting to focus on social justice aspects of the gospel at the expense of speaking openly and lovingly about the reality and danger of sin. In fact, in many Christian circles the word sin is not even used anymore. But it is important to use Bible terms for Bible ideas.

Keeping oneself from being polluted by the world is front and center in any discussion about religion God accepts as pure and faultless. I think the very reason a book like this one is necessary is because there is a tendency to focus on one aspect of godly religion or the other. Some people place a great premium on issues of social justice while ignoring the call to stay pure in this world. On the other hand, some focus so much on not being influenced by the world that they don’t take seriously the call to social justice, especially in terms of caring for orphans and widows.

Regardless of which side of the continuum you may be consumed with, just fulfilling one aspect of godly religion is not what pleases God. When people spend their entire lives investing in social justice issues but blend into the world all too well, God is not honored. And He isn’t honored by people who have a mile-long list of ways they have avoided being polluted by the world but have never donated a dollar or spent an afternoon or opened up a room in their house to care for an orphan or widow in distress.

So, using James 1:27 as a template, how are you doing in terms of living a life of religion that God would find pure and faultless?

— Jason Mitchell, author of No Easy Jesus

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