James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (ESV)
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I always cringe when someone calls me a religious person because the rituals of religion, by and large, leave me cold. And actually “religion” is a word that only appears a handful of times in the New Testament. Today, we’re going to take a look at one of those instances.
It’s interesting that on this particular occasion the writer uses that word “religion” very intentionally to mean exactly what it means – organised rituals that people observe to worship a deity.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (ESV)
Remember, in the first century, Christianity was birthed out of Judaism, which was dominated by the fanatically religious and legalistic Pharisees and the tyrannical Sadducees. It would have been easy for those early Christians to fall back into the same mistake of thinking that going through the religious motions was what pleases God.
In fact, I grew up in a particular Christian tradition that believed exactly that. I watched people go to church, perform rituals, sing lifeless hymns, and then live out lives that were completely unchanged, unmoved by the love of God in Jesus Christ.
So what’s James saying here? Using the example of bridling your tongue, he’s saying … Look, going through those religious motions on their own but not living out the life of faith, is a waste of time. You’re just kidding yourself. It ain’t about a particular tradition or ritual. It’s about a changed life.
Look … Jesus came to set us free from our sin by paying the price, by taking our punishment for us on that Cross! He rose again and poured out His Holy Spirit so that we could be restored, more and more, back into the image of God. And that means … a changed life. Anything less than that – merely going through the motions – is worthless!
That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.