I can’t tell you the number of times when my mouth got me in trouble. I painfully remember instances when silence, instead of some clever remark, would have been preferred.
James insists that religious people take stock of their words.
“If any think they are religious and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless” (James 1.26).
In verse 22 James writes, “But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”
One aspect of doing God’s word is having control over our speech. We deceive ourselves if we think we are doing God’s will while at the same time having no control over what comes out of our mouths.
Jesus taught, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12.34).
Our speech reveals the true nature of our inside condition and that includes our professed devotion to God.
Later in James’ letter, we will see how difficult it is to control speech (James 3.1-12).
His teaching to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (verse 19) is a good way to overcome speech that we regret.
If we are quick to listen to the voice of the Spirit and slow to speak harmful words, we will represent the Lord and ourselves much better.
“Don’t talk about it; be about it,” is a well-known saying at Maywood Baptist Church. James agrees with this view and offers insight into behavior that glorifies God.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1.27).
Notice how good religion is not what we say, but what we do.
The active care of the most vulnerable in society is first on the list of actions that define good religion.
God’s people are commanded to serve “the strangers, the orphans, and the widows” in five separate passages in Deuteronomy.
In today’s vernacular, the “strangers” would be immigrants or migrants. All three represent the most vulnerable in society and are worthy of our care.
What we say and do about the neediest in our world reveals the nature of our religion.
We can’t just “talk about it.” We must “be about it.”
Unstained by the World
Another aspect of good religion is to be unstained by the world.
One of my favorite shirts got discolored by leftover bleach in the washing machine. It is no longer useful for why I purchased it.
When we are stained by the world’s system, we become like my shirt.
When greed, pride, lust, anger, envy, and other attitudes that are part of the world stain our behavior, the beauty of our witness is tarnished.
On the other hand, when we are unstained by the world’s system, the beauty of the indwelling Spirit shines through us to the glory of God.
Not in Human Strength
Christ-honoring speech and behavior can not be accomplished with human effort. What Paul wrote to the Galatians is essential for victory in this area.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 1.19b-20).
In faith, we count ourselves crucified with Christ, but also resurrected with him.
In faith, we ask the indwelling Christ (through the Holy Spirit) to live his life through us. We ask him to direct our speech and actions.
This is the pathway to fulfilling the message of James.
Rudy Ross and I talk about the Book of James on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
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