Today’s verse is so rich. A few words don’t do it justice. This one’s a little long…
Religion is a word that sets people on edge these days, and many will balk at James 1:27 because of it. If we look back at the original language, though, we see what the concept that was translated as “religion” really is.
The Amplified Version translates this way: “External religious worship – religion as it is expressed in outward acts – that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God…”
James was talking to believers, explaining what their outward expression of the new life inside them should look like. This whole new Christianity thing was weird to the people. It didn’t include a rule book. No sacrifices on certain days. There wasn’t a task list. No dos and don’ts. Just relationship. And that was more difficult to live by!
The sacrifices this new Way requires are all of self. It is the laying aside my right to control me. It is denying what I want so I can serve that one. It is noticing – seeing the needs of others and meeting them.
The people were accustomed to having the priest stand in for them with God. The priest heard from God and passed on the message, then the people followed it – or not. With this relationship thing, the people heard from God themselves, and they were not used to that! No longer would they live under the fallible human watch of the priest, but under the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of the Creator, striving to meet His expectations. The old ways would have bled into the new ways and they worked the old task lists within the new relationship and it was not only tiring, but it wasn’t what God wanted. People were being neglected. So James explained.
Love is God. God is love. The forgotten of the culture were the widows and orphans. James defines the difference between a widow and a true widow. Simplified: a true widow is the one who has no family at all and is unlikely to marry again. These women were to be cared for by the believers as were the children who had no parents.
This edict extends to believers today. Widowhood is hard. Dealing with the loss of that one who was their soulmate is the most difficult thing that man or woman has ever done. It’s beyond losing a parent. The intimacy between spouses is a heart bond unlike any other.
There is no time limit on grief. The wails and tears of new loss don’t give way in two weeks to complete heart-healing. Those wails and tears may sneak up a year or more later. The debilitating weakness and confusion hangs on. Putting together coherent thoughts and making sense of life seem a lost art. This is when we who are believers are to support and care for these.
Children need parents. We seem content to group those without together in homes where a large number are cared for warehouse-style. While this is technically efficient, I don’t think this is the level of care God intended. James is pretty clear that we who follow Jesus are to interrupt our lives to serve these forgotten ones. We’re to care. We’re to see. We’re to do… something.
No, we’re not all cut out to be foster parents, but some of us are. Some of us are ignoring that niggling sense that we could be the ones, and we need to stop that. Yes, it’s hard!
Doing anything for others is hard, because we have to let go of ME and MY in order to love THEM.
Before I leave this verse, let’s don’t breeze past that last part, “refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Ouch.
We’re talking about the purity of our external worship here. That means we do NOT listen to how the world/culture defines worship. The world says to let the widows get together in a small group together and they’ll be okay. The world says let the system take care of those children, that’s what it’s set up for.
God says, “Believer, you do it.”
If our worship is to be pleasing to the One we say we’re worshipping, it must be pure. It must include this selflessness that calls the friend whose husband died to check on her. It includes asking the tough questions like is she eating right, has she seen the doctor/mechanic/attorney she said she needed to. It includes listening, letting her tell the stories of that faithful husband who was her support all those years.
That pure worship is to be seen in our selflessness to serve children. If we can’t foster, we can help in other ways. We can be friends with a foster family, offering emotional and even financial help. We can become the aunt, uncle, and even extra grandparents those children need.
We must be on guard all the time. We must be discerning to see if our attitude toward the forgotten is that of the world or of our Savior. We must. And if our attitude has become tarnished by the ways of the world, we must confess that and repent – turn from that and realign with God and His ways, then go forth expressing our worship of Him in the ways that please Him.
Pure worship. Pure outward expression of that pure worship. Service to those whom the world has forgotten. We can do this. We must do this.
Coffee, Bible, Journal.
As I grow older, I know more folks who have lost their true loves. Of course, age doesn’t matter. I know a young woman who lost her husband suddenly just a couple months ago. It’s not easier if you’re younger, it’s not easier if you’re older. There’s no easy to it. And children who have lost their parents – and hear me in this day and time we live in – losing their parents may not be to death. Addiction is stealing parents left and right. And that still means that we need to be there to help these orphans. Theirs is a loss that we can’t comprehend.
All it really takes is putting ourselves in the shoes of that one that we’re looking at, that one that we’re seeing. And asking what we can do to help alleviate the pain. Or to just make today a little brighter. If you’re a person who could be a foster parent, go for it. I’ve been told by those who are in that place, that it is the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done. And if you’re not in a place where you can foster, get to know parents who are doing that, like I said, become the aunt or the uncle, become the bonus grandparents. Love those children. Love those parents.
Our worship of the Father is not just internal. It’s not just in here. We express it. And what God was saying – what James was saying in these verses was, was that, dare I say it? Our worship, our external worship is not just what we do on Sunday in the building. It’s not the lifting of our hands alone. It’s not the the bowing, it’s not any of those things.
The pure and genuine religion, the pure and genuine outward expression of our inward worship of the Creator, is to take care of these, to take care of the forgotten, to love them in His place, to be the conduit for God’s love into their lives. Hmm.
May we examine ourselves today and look for the ways that we can help these who are overlooked and unseen by our society. You can do this, I can too.
I believe in you. Oh, I do. And better than that, Almighty God believes in you. And he is for you. He is for you, my friend.
If you’re in a place where you’re stuck, where you’re feeling like none of your dreams are coming true that every time you try it just flops. visit theunhackablelife.com. Take the assessment there. It’s completely free, no obligation, and it’ll help you understand what’s going on. If you’d like to discuss that message me. We’ll talk!
To view the video of this devotion and others, subscribe to my YouTube Channel. (Today’s will be available later today.)