“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his 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
Do you walk the talk? Do you practice what is preached? These are common idioms used in everyday language to express a key word: authenticity. Authenticity is what the world is searching for. A leader. A genuine person. Someone who can back up or prove what’s said with action.
Finding an authentic Christian is a rarity today. I know a friend who currently lives in Kentucky. He does practice what he preaches. As far as I know, everyday this man witnesses to hundreds of people at the bars, to strangers in downtown Louisville, and finds opportunities to preach at major sporting events. He takes the great commission both seriously and literally: To “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mk. 16:15).”
I remember one evening we both went to witness downtown on 4th street live, the entertainment center of Louisville. It was a cold night. A couple of drunk people were waiting outside an ATM machine, obtaining money to spend it on booze. My friend walked up to them and said, “Hello, how are you all doing?” “Would you like to hear the good news of Jesus?” They immediately responded: “We don’t want to hear that religious non-sense.” Then they started cussing at him. My friend had a great response after they yelled in his face. “God bless you,” my friend said, with humility.
What a great example of taming the tongue. He could have been upset but instead his thoughts and attitude were aligned with the will of God. Because he lived a genuine Christianity, he could show these unbelievers that his faith was real. I think they were shocked to hear his response. Unfortunately, they didn’t stop and talk with us but my friend definitely left an impression. These unbelievers will have to give an account to God for the opportunity they wasted to hear the gospel from a man that showed grace and love.
In the last verse, James makes it clear that a pure and undefiled religion is to visit widows and orphans in distress, and to be unspotted from the world. Why do you think the Apostle James specifically mentions this group of people? Because those without parents or husbands were and are a needy group of the church. Throughout the Bible, God takes care of the fatherless and the widows. In Isaiah 1:17, it states: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
No one took care of orphans and widows better than George Muller (1805-1898). Mr. Muller was a Christian Evangelist from Bristol, England. He cared for 10,024 orphans in his life and was well known for providing 117 schools for the underprivileged. His reputation for taking care of the poor got to the point where he was accused of raising the poor above their worth. However, Muller knew that every human being was infinitely valuable because of his theological knowledge of God. He wrote a diary in his well-known book Delighted in God, about trusting in God’s provision through prayer. Here is an excerpt:
July 28, 1874—”It has for months appeared to me, as if the Lord meant, by His dealings with us, to bring us back to that state of things, in which we were for more than ten years, from August, 1838, to April, 1849, when we had day by day, almost without interruption, to look to Him for our daily supplies, and, for a great part of the time, from meal to meal. The difficulties appeared to me indeed very great, as the Institution is now twenty times larger than it was then, and our purchases are to be made in a wholesale way; but at the same time, I am comforted by the knowledge that God is aware of all this, and that if this way be for the glory of His name, and for the good of His church and the unconverted world, I am, by His grace, willing to go this way, and to do it to the end of my course. The funds were thus fast expended; but God, our infinitely rich Treasurer, remains to us. It is this which gives me peace.
These two examples: Taming the tongue and taking care of orphans, are a sign that an individual has given their life to the Lord. These “good” works do not save us, but are an overflow of being forgiven by a loving God. It’s only when we come to the knowledge of the truth, confess our sins, and ask God to save us that we have a pure and undefiled religion that results in taming the tongue, taking care of the needy, and living a holy life.