James 1:26-27 NKJV
James wrote a lot about the tongue, and the first two verses about the tongue really hit the nail on the head! As someone who was closely associated with the pastorate of several churches, I can tell you first hand stories about people who do not bridle their tongue…but I won’t. I will tell you that when I was a young pastor’s wife I was naive about church members and staff. There were times when serving felt like a few people thought I was their slave, and in those days I was not paid staff.
In retrospect, there were generally one or two people in every church where we served who kept the pot stirred with their tongue. It was very difficult at the time because a lot of the emphasis focused on what they thought my kids did wrong. I really wish I would have known then what I know now about psychology and pastoral counseling. I seriously think they were wagging their tongues about my kids because they were clueless and unhappy about their own children.
My greatest concern for a long time was that their constant criticism would make my kids hate church. The good news is it doesn’t seem to have dissuaded them. I think maybe because their eyes were opened, they have the ability to offer support to their own pastoral staff today.
James starts out in James 1:26 saying, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”
James’ reference to religion is really interesting because it seems like it’s a modern day comment. It seems like James is saying religion without action is useless. We can talk about how people should act (and how children should behave), but when we use Jesus as our model we realize He spent more time defending the down-trodden, including children. He seldom performed religious ceremonies. Jesus did wash the disciples’ feet and He served the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus was all about healing the sick and defending women and children. If we truly used Jesus as our model, we would be defending the poor, healing the sick, and helping to give people dignity. We would talk about God’s love and care.
In James 1:27, he wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
See, Jews in that day were focused on religious observances and ceremonies. James was telling them they need to be practical and serve. He didn’t say, do what Jesus did, but he certainly pointed them in that direction.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus did say, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
We need to remember that James’ letter was written to Jews who had scattered outside Jerusalem. James was raised In a Jewish household with his half-brother Jesus. More than likely, James would have heard his older brother talk about focusing on practical religion like serving orphans and widows.
We also need to remember that in their culture, women who didn’t have a husband, a brother, or a son who was of age were put out on the streets. They did not have a paid occupation outside the home. Jewish women were not educated. Only Jewish boys were allowed to go to school in the Temple. Widows and orphans were in the same class. They had no means of support. They were helpless.
Today we live in a very different culture. Women head up corporations. They do not need to marry or have a brother care for them. Children who do not have parents are cared for in a different way. It may not be a perfect system in the USA, but generally speaking they are not put out on the streets to die.
So, here’s my question…if Jesus came to the planet today, who would he spend time defending.?
Would it be victims of human trafficking?
Would it be abused women around the world?
Would it be people who are suffering some kind of injustice in the court system?
Or is it your next door neighbor?
The broader question is, who needs Jesus in our world?
I don’t have all the answers, but I think those are the people Jesus wants us to love.
We really never know who needs Jesus until we take time to get to know them. We might find it’s our next door neighbor, or the child across the street. I do know when we ask Jesus will open our eyes and open doors; Jesus will show us people who need His love.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Open your Eyes
Ask God to show you who in your world needs love and care.
In God, Deborah