“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:26-27, NIV
We’ve all experienced being deceived. Maybe you were tricked into buying a product you didn’t want, deceived by fake news or tricked out of a big business deal. Whatever experience you’ve had it had something to do with someone deceiving us. It’s beyond our imagination to think that we could ever deceive ourselves.
But it’s possible.
That’s what James 1:22 tells us: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” It’s not a good feeling to be deceived by someone. How much more when we deceive ourselves!
James tells us that this happens when we read God’s Word but don’t do what it says. He goes on to say that our religion- our faith and belief- is worthless when this happens.
James tells us that this happens when we read God’s Word but don’t do what it says. He goes on to say that our religion- our faith and belief- is worthless when this happens. It’s like holding on to a completely broken phone thinking it can still add value to our lives.
How do we know that our religion is true and that we aren’t deceiving ourselves? Here are three proofs that scripture points out to us that will help us see whether we have true religion or we’re fooling ourselves with a faulty one.
The first evidence of true religion is our speech. Scripture teaches that when we “do not keep a tight rein on their tongues,” meaning we are careful about what we say, then chances are our belief isn’t working the way it should be.
Our tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). When the truth of God’s love penetrates our hearts, our speech will consequently become life-giving, not hateful and tactless.
James goes on to say that true religion can be spotted in believers who “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” Religion was not just meant to be for our benefit. Jesus taught that the greatest command is to love God and love others. When you see those in need- the poor, the broken, the hurt- are you driven to compassion?
True faith will consequently result in compassion towards others. As Jesus looked at the harassed and helpless with compassion, we will be drawn into that same compassion as well as we continue to follow Christ.
Righteousness has nothing to do with what we do and everything to do with what Christ has done for us. But Christ’s righteousness in us will also flow through us. That doesn’t mean we change overnight, but we do experience God’s sanctifying work little by little.
As James tells us, true religion will “keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The Gospel affects not just our future glory, but our current lifestyle. Hence, a changed lifestyle becomes proof of true religion.