“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” 1:26-27
I’ve looked at this verse a lot in my life, but I feel like I’m just starting to gain some understanding. I’ve always read it like this: your relationship with God is worthless if you can’t watch your mouth. (Which I can’t, by the way. If I’m not gossiping, I’m losing my temper. It’s gotten better over the years but will always remain a struggle of mine.)
Today I read it like this: Religion has nothing to do with being on your best behavior, that isn’t going to happen. What God expects out of your ‘religion’ is caring for orphans and widows in their time of need and staying separate from the culture around me. Don’t act like them, act like me.
Bethany and I are listening to seminar sessions Richard Rohr put out in the early 90’s. The only thing that dates the material is when he mentions purchasing his first answering machine for his land line. Otherwise, it’s still perfectly relevant information.
In the session I listened to yesterday, he off-handedly mentioned that he’s never seen a church fight over who is caring for widows and orphans the best. No, instead, we are constantly at war over leadership, aesthetics, religious tendencies, etc. Or as he describes it, our egos. Talk to anyone in ministry and they will nod in agreement. In my experience, even the “godly” topics that get debated are still rooted in a power struggle.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” 1:22-25
This is always my prayer. Sometimes I worry that the pace in which I read and process the Bible is too rapid, and I’m not applying it enough. But then I think about how quickly and immediately I imitate what secular culture teaches me. What catch phrases people are saying, who’s dating who, what politician did what, and so on. Information is flowing in and out of my life at a very rapid pace, but I get to control what I retain and mimic.
How do you exercise being a doer of the word and not just a hearer?
(James gives a pretty clear picture of this in the next chapter. I’m thankful Bethany is going to cover it! I love her wisdom on works vs. faith.)