“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 NIV
I can’t help but think that God laughs at our modern day version of religion. We go to church, serve once a year at the soup kitchen, making sure to carve out 10 minutes out of our day to read a verse or two in the Bible, and we label ourselves Christ followers. What is more tragic than all of that is this: poverty exists because we have failed to obey the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor as ourselves. Think about that for a moment. Do you think that God created too many people in this world without sufficient resources to provide for everyone? No, He did not. We live our comfortable, North American Christian lives while the majority of the world lives on less than $2 per day. Who defines Christianity today? Is it us or is it God’s Word?
James, the brother of Jesus, seems pretty bent on social justice throughout his book. I’ve always loved the book of James, but as I’ve studied it more and more, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to walk away from time spent in this book without a strong sense of conviction. I’m just as guilty of this “American religion” as the next person. I live a “good” life and do “good” things and assume that God’s stamp of approval rests on me. But verse 27 takes us all to a new level of commitment. It implies that God rejects our version of religion that is wrapped up in ourselves and rusty traditions, and it challenges us to follow His way instead – to look after orphans and widows and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. Hmmm…do I even know any orphans or widows? How then am I following this command to look after them in their time of distress? Perhaps, we need to place ourselves in their lives and begin meeting the need. And how do I keep myself from being polluted by this world? Perhaps by rejecting the love of money, prestige, power, and position that our culture deems worthy and respectable and instead humbling ourselves to care for those that simply cannot care for themselves.
What is one need that I am aware of that I can meet today?