Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
This is a disconcerting verse since many of us, as Christians, were taught from a young age to proclaim our faith. We do so in our churches, our homes, in our communities in our missions, and in the world. If we are truly committed to our beliefs and practice them each day, it may be extremely difficult to keep our tongues quiet. How often has someone in a restaurant been overheard saying grace before a meal? How often do we part with the benediction, ‘God bless you?’ How very often do we softly utter the simply words, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ during an ordinary day?
The letter of James is one of the few books of the bible to be written not as a letter to anyone, but by someone. James, although theologians are not certain which of four men by the name of James mentioned in the bible, wrote it himself. James writes about the difference between speaking and doing.
He returns to earlier verses to pick up the theme of speaking. Just as listening without acting is empty and deceptive, so is talking religion without a life which confirms one’s words. Religion (a rare word in the New Testament) that is meaningful rather than empty must have the integrity of word and work.
If one wonders what is to be done, the answer is very practical: care for those who cannot fully care for themselves. Socially, these persons were to be given the community’s attention. To do so is far more acceptable before God the Father if such attention to others is joined to an effort to resist the values and pursuits of an unbelieving culture.
This makes the meaning of this passage fall into place. It does not forbid us from speaking of our religion, our Christian beliefs, or our love of God. It simply tells us that, to be of any real value, these words must, necessarily, be accompanied by actions on the part of Christians. As we go forth, let us both speak and practice our faith and may we truly show our works by living the greatest commandment of all by doing unto others.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur and Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor.
Columbia Prayer Chain: Wednesday, January 16
In our prayers: Claudia Strattman, Jennifer Williams, Betty Jo Carson, Gary Davis, Eddie Bolton, Myrna, Esther, Pam James, Doug and Sharon, John Kelchner, Elizabeth Matthews, Nedrick Griffin, Jennifer Handy, Nancy Stuckey, Annemarie Sullivan, Rachel and Randy Wurtzbaugh, Patty Peckham, Denise Byrd, Greg and Lisa Steele, Dean Timothy Jones, Linda Langford, Marty Fritz, Harriet Hancock, Tommy and Robby Palmer, Patty and Ted Mac Laughlin, Janet Long, Bobby Wilson, Debbie and Pat Barry, Betty Jo Sullivan, Mary Francis Harris, Patrick and Patricia Barry, Jordan Hill, Doris Clevenger, Charles Sigel, Bob Davis, John Whatley, Nancy Zuckerman, Charles Davis Sr., Bill Carter, Betty Peavy Frick, Joye Cantrell, Fred and Gail, Dale and Norma Sessions, Padge Arrington, Jerry Callahan, Norman Masters
In memoriam: Esther L. Sanders, George Arthur Murphy Jr., James L. Coffee, Rosa Mae Bell Owens, Thelma Williams Davis, Bessie B. Harris Fox, Bruce Franklin Duke Jr.
Our prayers are with: the elderly, the homeless, all currently fighting illness, all beloved pets, our president and congress, our police officers and firefighters, all who serve in the armed forces
Columbia Prayer Chain is open to all residents of greater Columbia who would like to share prayers and receive the prayers of others. Please leave your name in the comment box below or email me to join our Prayer Chain. It is updated daily.