James 1:26-27 says, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The word “religion” in this passage is the Greek word threskeia and it means “the external patterns of behavior connected with religious belief.” We normally associate this word with people “going through a ritual, a form, or a ceremony.” But God uses this word to describe the “outward behavior that expresses what a person believes.” In these verses the Spirit of God contrasts a “vain” or “worthless” religion with a “pure” and “undefiled” religion.

In verse 26 we have a “worthless religion.” A man may profess to believe in Christianity and go through all the outward observances of Christianity, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, yet if he can’t control his tongue he is deceived and his religion is empty and useless. Paul described this “veneer of religion” in 2 Timothy 3:5, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” James had just exhorted us in James 1:22 to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Anyone who reads God’s Word and doesn’t obey it, is deceived. He may think he is a true Christian because he goes through the motions of worshipping God, but if his behavior doesn’t conform to what the Bible teaches, he is deceiving himself. He really isn’t deceiving anyone else, for the moment he opens his mouth the vanity of his supposed religion is exposed.

In verse 27 have a “pure and undefiled religion.” This religion will be seen by acts of love and holiness. Love will lead a man to think of the needs of others and seek to minister to those needs. There are many who are filled with sorrow and loneliness, such as “the fatherless and widows,” and true religion is seen when we take the time to visit them and express our love for them. Holiness will lead us to separate from the world and all its defiling influences, to lead a life consecrated to God and one that brings honor and glory to Him. Again, God uses the word “religion” to describe a behavior that conforms to what we believe and if we really believe in God, who is LOVE and who is HOLY, we will imitate His character by performing acts of love and holiness.

The question was asked, “Is there really a need for religion?” I trust from this brief lesson we will see that THERE IS NO NEED FOR VAIN RELIGION, but that THERE IS A REAL NEED FOR PURE RELIGION. (170.10) (DO)