Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Money and relationships are power. Wherever you are as you read this, money and relationships (or a lack of either one) have played a key role in your social status and how you see the world. Do you realize that? It is an evidence of God’s grace if you are a person who has a strong family unit and financial resources—these things are gifts to be thankful for, not feel guilty for having.
However, all to often, these ‘power’ indicators are what we use to judge a person’s importance to us. Power isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but what James is speaking of in this verse is this: if power, or social status, is what you use to judge those you associated with, that is sin.
Our world judges worth based on power rather than each human being an image bearer of God. James’ word of warning to us is a reminder that it is easy to get caught up in seeing people in a worldly way. Instead of seeing ourselves as sojourners just passing through our short time on earth, we get tunnel vision. People become valued by their ability to do something for us.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t judge us based on what we can do for him; the gospel is that God gave everything to those ill-deserving (us). Because of our redemption, we can in turn extend the same to those in our world who have been neglected and in some cases abandoned by society. The gospel frees us in Christ to love those who have been passed over by the power structures of this world.
So, how do you treat people who have nothing to offer you? Don’t be guilty of passing off this question without real examination. Think about this; who are your friends? Do you have people in your life that you are giving to, expecting nothing in return? Are there people around you with tangible needs you can meet? Do you have a willing heart to give both money and relationship (not just one or the other) to people who are vulnerable and in need?
The book of James pushes us to wisdom—the marriage of belief and action. Pure and undefiled religion will always have as one of its byproducts a concern and awareness for the needy among us. We live out the gospel by doing for others because of what Jesus has done for us. Be sure to check out the following references…
For further study: Pro. 19:4, 14:20, 1 Pet. 2:11, Eph. 2:19-20, Lk. 14:12-24, Ja. 4:4
*A word on using this devotional blog. The good stuff is in parentheses. Proverbs is a deep well of practical understanding for our souls that runs parallel with much of the wisdom found in the book of James. Be sure to reference the texts listed and allow God to speak to you through the power of the word. The subject matter follows along with the current sermon series in James; download each week’s podcast to journey with us.