19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
The book of James is often criticized because some claim that James emphasizes works and not faith when it comes to salvation and that this book is legalistic. On the contrary, I believe that James is very much into salvation by faith alone and that this idea is supported by the words of James himself. In v21 James even says that we are saved by putting trust into the message that God has put into our hearts. The power of salvation doesn’t come from anything that we do, but by trusting in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Our own works and good deeds, while James spends the majority of this book encouraging, do not have the power to save us. That can only be found in trusting in Jesus Christ.
V22 is probably one of the best gut-check verses in the whole Bible. Don’t just listen to it, do it…wow! Talk about a reality check. I used to (and still do) read God’s Word and acknowledge what it says but very rarely put it into practice. I think if we truly read the Bible and applied what we needed to we would recognize how far we really do come up short in measuring up. If we really did what it said to do and took that statement seriously I don’t think there would be any confusion or gray area in our world as to who follows Christ and who doesn’t. But the fact is most Christians know what they believe, but they don’t do much with it. No wonder the world at large doesn’t recognize the need. Why should they if they can’t see it in us? V25 goes on to positively reinforce us to do what we read in the Bible as God will bless us for doing so. I don’t know about you, but life is hard enough as it is without me complicating it anymore. When I get the inside scoop on receiving God’s blessing I want to take full advantage of it. Well here’s an opportunity to do so. Just do it!
The third and final thought I had as I read this familiar passage was brand new. I have read v27 a multitude of times and always stopped reading about halfway through, thinking that pure and genuine religion in God’s sight was simply taking care of orphans and widows. And it certainly is. James said so. But I think for the first time I actually paid attention as I continued on to the end of this verse: “and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” This is actually the second time that James brings up this concept in this passage alone (first part of v21). We are to do away and with the evil in our lives and not be corrupted by this world. I don’t believe that James is telling us to become monks and nuns and be ignorant to what is going on in the world. I believe he is telling us to live above the influence of everything bad in the world. If we want to please God and be considered pure and genuine in His sight, part of that comes from being an influence in our world, and not being influenced by it.
- What from God’s Word do you need to be applying and doing in your life?
- Is there a verse in this passage that speaks to you?
- How often do you look into a spiritual mirror and change what you see?