To hear "Pure Religion" (12 mins), click on the play arrow.
There are five important themes in the latter part of James 1 (vs.19-27), the first three of which we examined in the previous reflection:
- Restraint of hasty desire
- Practical obedience to God’s Word
- Reception of the Word with humility
- Concern for defenseless members of the community
- Turning from the ways of the world
- Profanity, gossip, slander, lying, perjury, babbling—and talking about obeying God but not actually doing it.
- "Worthless" – 1:26 parallels 2:26.
- Religion is “the celebration of God and the discovery of his will for our lives” (Richard Holloway).
- Concern for defenseless members of the community connected with turning from the ways of the world, as in Ezekiel 16:49.
- What is the evidence most churches ignore 1:26-27?
- The fellowship isn't stratified – we tend to be one social or economic class. We may help the needy, but how close are we to them?
- General apathy re: the vulnerable.
- Ignorance of the strong OT mandate to care for orphans and widows (Exod 22:21; Deut 10:18; 14:28; 16:11, 14; 24:17-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Ps 68:5; Isa 1:17; Jer 5:28; Ezek 22:7; Zech 7:10)—plus aliens!
- General lack of compassion towards refugees.
- Aloofness from dire issues (human trafficking, famine, civil wars, poverty—the list is endless). We tend to give lip service rather than getting involved in a costly, relational, and meaningful way.
- We spend plenty of money on worldly purchases (homes, cars, vacations, nice clothes…), but nearly 0% to help the needy.
- We may donate for disaster relief, or support solid Christian charities, but are we bringing the poor into the fellowship?
- Most churches give a minuscule percentage of their budget to assist the weak and vulnerable—but spend large amounts on salaries and buildings.
- Do we realize that the poor / working class / slaves were the majority in the early church? The NT church collected money as necessary for the needy—this was by far the primary item in their "budget" (if they had one).
- I don’t mean to paint every congregation with the same brush. Certainly there are numerous exemplary exceptions. But looking at Christendom worldwide, I think this is a fair criticism. (Do you?)
Summary (Jas 1:19-25 and 1:26-27)
- Trust in God > the power of human will (anger)
- Let’s look into the Word and be honest about what we see
- Let’s humbly receive the implanted word, which can save us
- Get rid of all moral filth
- Careless speech is not a matter of indifference to our God
- Nor is caring for the needy optional
- Mere talk about the needy makes our religion worthless.
- Let's be champions for the powerless, for the vulnerable
- This will rewrite rejecting the world and its anti-God values
- Freedom comes with obedience
Next time: James 1-5 read in the RPM version