If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Well, here we go. James is about to jump full force into the remainder of his epistle, and give us just tons of good, practical ways to display the evidence of true, saving Christian faith. These three instructions, as we will see, are not all the things James want to teach us; they do provide a good starting point, however.
We must control our speech. James talks quite a bit later about controlling our tongues. According to one writer, we spend up to one fifth of our lives talking; it is easy to see the influence our speech can have on our lives and the lives of the people around us. What we say is a reflection of what is truly in our hearts. We can learn this clearly in Matthew 12:34,37 , “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”; “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
We must serve. The reference to visiting widow and orphans here has much more meaning that just popping in on these folks to see how they are doing. The greek word used apparently is from the same root where we get our term “overseer,” or “bishop.” This direction carries the strong idea of caring for others and helping then in any way which might be needed. It is more active and continuous than just dropping in to say hello.
Finally, we must separate ourselves from the world. Not remove ourselves, separate our selves. We are still commanded to go forth in the world and evangelize it, just not to become tainted or stained by it. John 16:11-16 teaches us the idea of the disciples being in the world but not of the world.
Let’s move on now. In the next few chapters, James is going to get quite situational and specific in his guidance to us on proper Christian living. Stay tuned!