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These are 3 areas which James introduces here, but which he will develop in more detail in the rest of the epistle



A. Inflated Opinion of Self

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious”

Piper: “‘Religious’ Means ‘Faith in Jesus’ —

The reason I think he means “faith in Jesus” when he uses the word ‘religious’ (in verse 26), or talks about ‘pure and undefiled religion’ (in verse 27), is that this is what he continues with in the next verse (2:1): ‘My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.’ There is no break in the flow between 1:27 and 2:1; so there is good reason to think that ‘pure religion’ is ‘faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ That is James’ religion.”

Zodhiates: “James does not speak here of the estimate others have about us, but of the subjective estimate which we form of ourselves. It is not what we appear to be to others, but what we think we are. Our mental estimate of our own spiritual condition is extremely important. After all, we are affected more by what we think of ourselves than by what others think of us.”

B. Obvious Lack of Self-Control

“yet does not bridle his tongue”

This failure is visible to all; no mystery here

Vaughan: “James was thinking of the man who may be punctilious in religious activity but careless about everyday speech. All of his religious activity is vain if he does not bridle his tongue… To bridle the tongue is to discipline it, restrain it, curb it, keep it under control. The imagery suggests that the tongue is like an unruly horse that needs bit and bridle to check its wild tendencies.”

Not what we do on Sunday, but what we do on Monday to Saturday shows the reality of our religion.

C. Ignorant Persistence in Self-Deception

“but deceives his own heart”

He still does not get it!

D. Ultimate Futility of Hypocrisy

“this man’s religion is worthless”

What’s the point of fooling yourself and trying to fool others?



A. Essence of Worthwhile Religion

1. “pure”

2. “undefiled”

B. Evaluator of Worthwhile Religion — only God’s opinion really matters

“in the sight of our God and Father”

C. Example of Worthwhile Religion

“to visit orphans and widows in their distress”

Marsaw: “And what about the orphans? The dictionary tells us that an orphan is one bereaved of his or her parents. Doesn’t this definition apply to a child who comes from a broken home?! I certainly think so. I would go so far as to argue that a child whose parent has died is likely to be emotionally better-off than the one who has been abandoned. In the latter situation, the child experiences rejection and often is overcome with feelings of guilt . In many instances, these poor kids believe that they are responsible for the whole mess while those orphaned through the death of a parent view the loss as being a tragic yet unwillful act. Had the parent not died, he or she would still be by the child’s side.”

Piper: “So orphans are children whose parents have died and left them at the mercy of others to take care of, lest they die. How does abortion relate to that? Well, abortion puts the child in a worse situation. The parents are not dead, but they have turned on the child and choose to have the child dead. This is worse than being an orphan. To have Mommy and Daddy choose to have you dead is worse than Mommy and Daddy being dead.

So it seems to me that if God wants us to care about the orphan whose life is endangered because his parents are dead, he would want all the more that we care about the child whose life is endangered because his parents choose to make him dead.”

Miano: “Sometimes it is difficult to do that. Sometimes we tend to shy away from the less fortunate as if their misfortune may rub off on us. Sometimes we distance ourselves from those in need because we don’t want to be forced to look at our own pressing needs, or we consider our own needs to important to put those less fortunate first. Regardless of whatever hang-ups we may have about serving those in need, if our hearts don’t break for them to the point that we extend to them more than just a smile and a kind word, we are just playing church.”



“and to keep oneself unstained by the world”

No amount of ministry to others can make up for a failure to guard your own purity or character

Ross: “There must be no selfish isolation of himself from all contact with the woes of humanity, but, at the same time, he must seek earnestly to maintain personal purity in all his intercourse with others.”

Mitton: Re “world” — “it means the world of men as it is in its alienation from God and rebellion against Him. It is almost synonymous with ‘evil’, because the ‘world’ is now in the power of evil. This ‘world’ is also the environment in which the Christian must live. Its customs and habits are tainted with evil. Therefore the pressures which come to the Christian from the social life about him are in the direction of evil. He has constantly to be on the alert against this pressure, sometimes direct and threatening, more often insidious and unnoticed.”