Real Religion

William C. Brownson

READ : James 1:26-27

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God . . . is this: to care for orphans and widows . . . and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (v. 27)

Here goes James again, comparing phony “religion” with the real article. This heart-searching apostle won’t let us get away with anything. By “religion” here he means not your creed or denomination, but how you live out your faith in daily life.

James gives two vital marks of what he calls “pure religion.” The second one sounds like what we might expect—to “keep oneself unstained by the world.” Maybe we think he means “no smoking, drinking, or questionable amusements.” But James saw defilement as Jesus did—a matter of the heart. We are stained by the world when we embrace its values, when we prize profit more than principle, popularity above character, pleasing ourselves more than obeying God.

The other sign of real religion is trademark “James”—it’s something positive we do. Pure religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress. Those words widows and orphans are biblical terms for all of society’s most vulnerable members. Helping them is high on God’s agenda. Where does it rank with us? How much of our giving and serving is for such “little people”?

Jesus wants to know. One day he’ll say to us, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).


Lord, help us practice “pure religion”!