Ezekiel 11-13 James 1
“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 1:27 NCV)
Religion was a major topic of conversation in the days of the early church. The culture at that time had all kinds of mystery religions that people joined as they sought to be with the “in crowd” or perhaps even in a desire to find truth. The problem with all of those religions is that they were man’s feeble attempts to find God. Then, Christianity burst on the scene with the story of the Resurrection and a relationship with God. The idea that man needed to seek God was upended by the Christian belief that God reached down from Heaven to establish this relationship. James continued the destruction of the popular view of religion by noting that if we wanted to be religious, that is, highlight our relationship with God, we’ll live righteous lives and care for people in need.
Religion for the Christian is not a list of dos and don’ts on how to reach God and get Him to like us. That’s false religion. For Christianity, “religion” is what we do because we know that God loves us and made the way for us to have a relationship with Him. In other words, how has God made a difference in our lives. The book of James is often looked at with suspicion because there seems to be an emphasis on works, or things people should do to find God. I look at James as a letter to people who already claim to follow Christ, reminding them that their relationship with Jesus should make a difference in their lives. According to James, if your relationship with God is really certain and you want to show it to others, live a life that honors God and take care of people in need. The principle James uses here, and later in the book, about meeting needs sounds a lot like what Jesus said in Matthew 25. As we read through the book of James together, let’s not think about this book as a manual on how to gain salvation, let’s understand it as a manual for Christian living after we develop our relationship with God. In the meanwhile, avoid being polluted by the ways of the world and find ways to care for people in need.
Lord, it’s so easy to get caught up in the ways and thought processes of the world. Help me to avoid any thought or activity opposed to You. At the same time, keep my eyes open to opportunities to serve You by helping people in need.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.