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.
These two verses kind of tie everything else together and serve as a bridge into James 2. James is a closely knit book with a very coherent message and these verses serve as a reminder of this. Actions speak louder than words. Even though that phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible it is a concept that is taught repeatedly throughout scripture.
Throughout the book of James there is a balancing act which takes place between faith and deeds. This will be discussed in much more depth later on. The idea expressed here is not that a person must earn their salvation but rather that our actions should be an expression of our salvation.
There are many people who know the right things about God. They know all of the proper answers to religious questions. But as James warned in verse 22, they have merely listened to the Word. These people consider themselves to be religious but in the end it will be their actions that show them for who they truly are.
To reiterate, acceptable religion is not about doing specific acts such as looking after the orphans and widows. People can do these things without being religious at all. Only those who truly love God will be capable of sharing His love with those around them. This will be expressed in ways such as helping orphans and widows but also through thousands of other acts of love that one might perform in their world today.
The equation should be simple. True love of God should lead to expressing that love to others. This is the message that James conveys in his letter. In James’ day this love could be expressed towards orphans and widows. Today we have many more opportunities to do so.