Pure or Worthless?
Lord, help me to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath (19).
Read James 1:19–27
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The peace and wisdom of God fill your hearts, that nothing may rule in you but the life which stands in the Lord God” (George Fox, 1624–1691).
The iconic cartoon series The Simpsons is an irreverent social commentary. The characters, with few exceptions, are caricatures of the sin and folly that seem to rule our society: Homer is a self-indulgent fool; Mr. Burns, a greedy sociopath; Mo, an angry, bitter reject. Probably the worst two characters are the church minister and his wife: he is a cold-hearted hypocrite, and she is a spiteful, self-righteous gossip. This is a sobering projection of some of the practitioners of Christianity: devoid of humility, compassion and love. Rather than helping society, they harm it. James agrees: such religion is useless, and he warned believers about its corrosive influence in the church.
God’s Word is the best mirror into our hearts. We are called to trust in the
Lord with all our heart rather than lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5), but if we refuse to apply this trust to our daily lives, we resort to
justifying rather than examining ourselves. What comes from the heart spills
into our daily lives and relationships (Matt. 15:18,19). James uses unrighteous anger as an example of the fruit of a heart that is not at peace with God. This kind of anger focuses on the shortcomings of others—a dissolute lifestyle or a strange doctrine, for example—but ignores the unforgiving, proud selfishness in ourselves. The Word brings such sins as anger, hypocrisy and gossip into the mirror’s view, and, when unmasked, we must get rid of them. If we refuse, our religion is hypocritical and therefore worthless. A humble heart submitted to God’s Word will be quick
to listen because it longs to hear what is right and will then joyfully act on it, doing God’s work in this needy, dark world with a “pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).
What is God asking me to put into practice from his Word? What sinful behavior do I need to put to death? Don’t just listen: act upon God’s Word today.
Lord, hold the mirror of Your Word in front of me, and give me the grace to accept what I see.
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