What do I claim to be? I may not claim to be religious, instead I might use other terminology. I might say, " I am a Christian. Or I am a follower of Christ." However I label myself, James is talking to all who call God Father and Jesus their Savior. In the last two verses of chapter one, James talks about religion and what pure and genuine religion is. This week's verses are James 1:26-27.
"If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are only fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine in the sight of God the father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."Controlling my tongue can seem like a losing battle. In fact, James, himself, tells me in James three that no one can tame the tongue. Yet he still speaks about the importance of our words and what we say throughout the book of James. If you spend anytime in Proverbs, Solomon has a lot to say about the words that come out of our mouths and how they affect our lives. So would James ask me to do something that is impossible? I don't think so.
Part of the problem is that I don't try to control our tongue. I use the excuse it can't be tamed. I forget the power of God within me and that I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I let my emotions take control instead of God's spirit. As a teacher and a mother, I use a lot of words which gives me a lot of opportunity to mess up. It is something I will alway struggle with but that doesn't mean I need to give up. My daily prayer is that God will guide that words that come out of my mouth. I also pray that the words I type whether here or on Facebook or email will be pleasing to Him.
Verse 26 is a good reminder of how serious controlling my tongue is. What I say reflects what I believe. What I say shows what I am like on the inside. What I say can draw people closer or farther away from God. Looking back at my time as a teacher, I see times where I hurt my witness as a child of God. I regret the words I said and even though I have asked for forgiveness, I can not take those words back. In the last few years, I have really worked on this area and by the grace of God, I feel like I am doing better. One resource that really helped me was Lysa Terkuest book Unglued. Another resource is my children. They are good at letting me know when I am out of line either through their words or expressions.
The next verse, verse 27, is great bridge between chapter one and chapter two of James. It caps off chapter one after James has reminded his reader to be quick to listen, to not just listen but obey, and to watch our tongues. James gives two characteristics of pure and genuine religion in the sight of God. The first characteristic is caring for widows and orphans in their distress. The second is refusing to the let the world corrupt you. Then it leads into chapter 2 where we are told not to show favoritism.
The last few years I have struggled with the first characteristic of pure and genuine religion. It is so easy with all the ladies who come to my door to harden my heart to their need. Do I see them as inconvenience or someone God is sending my way to love on? I am learning to listen to God's leading and be ready for what He has for me in these opportunities. I am thankful for a friend who does great with these ladies. She knows their stories and their needs. Often I will give to these ladies though her. She knows who needs it the most, and it makes the gift more anonymous. My prayer is that my eyes will be open to the widows and orphans that He sends my way.
The last characteristic of pure and genuine religion is refusing to let the word corrupt you. What am I believing that is from the world and not from God? Does it have to do with my self image? Or what is success? Or how I should spend my time? There is a battle going on for our mind. I think Romans 12:2 says it best on how best to win that battle.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.This post has taken me a few days to write partly because these verses have so much in them and also because I want them to change me. I don't want to stay where I am. In September, I return to Central Asia and hope to hit the ground running living in the strength and guidance of God's spirit.
Dear God, Be with my tongue. May I be quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to get angry. May I take every thought captive. Help me not to conform to the pattern of this world but to renew my mind every day through time with you and your word. Show me how to best help the widows and orphans where I live. What is it you want me to do? Help me to refuse to be corrupted by the world. May your thoughts be my thoughts and your words my words. In Jesus name, Amen