“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.” James 1:27
I have a question for you. Do you have religion? That’s kind of a loaded question, I know, but I’m asking anyway.
There was a time in America when everyone knew what it meant when someone “got religion.” It meant that they got saved, that they had become a Christian, that they were now a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Knowing that it can sometimes be easy to “play the game” and not truly be committed to Christ, the apostle here gives us a clear guide for determining whether your religion is pure or not, whether or not you are truly God’s idea of a Christian.
First, he says that pure and undefiled religion involves visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, helping those who are helpless and being kind to those who are in need.
In regard to this, we are reminded of the dreadful scene, recorded in Matthew 25:34-46, in which the King of kings separates the sheep from the goats, and says to the sheep at His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Verses 34-36)
The sheep, called here “the righteous,” are perplexed by this, and ask, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” (Verses 37-39) They were so righteous they did not even realize that they had done anything unusual. It just came natural to them.
King Jesus then answers, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Verse 40)
But to those on the left—the goats—He says, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” (Verses 41-43)
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Verse 46)
The apostle James then says that pure and undefiled religion involves keeping yourself unspotted from the world, keeping yourself pure, clean, holy and undefiled.
This is difficult in a world that is ever becoming more corrupt, but it is nevertheless a clear indication of your spiritual state.
In Romans 12:2, we are instructed not to be conformed to this world, with all of its defilements and wickedness, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds: which is accomplished through the regular washing of our minds with the pure water of the Word of God when we read our Bibles.
We are not to seek after the things of the world to the forsaking of Christ. We are to shun the things of the world that would tend to defile our bodies, our minds and our souls, and cling to those things which would better us and bring us into a closer walk with our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Thus shall you keep yourself unspotted from the things of the world.
Dear reader, is your religion pure and undefiled before God?