James describes “pure and undefiled” religion in two parts. First, “to care for orphans and widows in their affliction” (verse 27). This part is easy to understand. We just have to ask, who in our society today is defenseless and oppressed? Then we must reach out and care for them in whatever ways we can. The second part of religion is this: “to keep oneself unstained [or unpolluted] by the world.” Theologians say that the word world here does not mean the natural world. Rather, it means a way of living that ignores God, or it is a value system that opposes God.
The world can pollute us by getting us to live a life based on values such as these: Me first!... The purpose of life is to get money, power and fame… Buy, buy, buy… I am not my brother or sister’s keeper. Such values oppose gospel values such as these: Love one another… The purpose of life is service… Deny yourself and follow me… Whatever you did to the least, you did to me. How do I measure up to the kind of religion James describes?
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