God wrote through the apostle Paul, “Believe the gospel.” God wrote through the apostle James, “Prove your belief.” In chapter one of his letter, James exhorted his readers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). He addressed three doings of doers in the very next paragraph, three works to watch to discover if one’s walk is worthless or worshipful.
First, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (v.26). Second, on the positive side, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (v.27a) And third, God pleasing religion is also “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (v.27b).
The initial talking point is our talking. Whether or not we control our tongues matters. If we use our tongues to bless the Lord but curse men who are made in God’s image (3:9-11), there’s reason to be concerned about the source of the spring.
The third comment is about worldliness. Being stained by the immoral, unmerciful, bickering, self-centric codes of the world is a sign of spiritual adultery. It does not match a life of faith.
In between, James clarifies that we have immediate, temporal responsibilities to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Saying, “Be warmed and filled” comes out of dead-faithed mouths (2:15-17). So every Christian would-be-doer-of-the-word must care for orphans and widows if they want to be blessed. It doesn’t mean that every person must adopt a child or take home a widow, but it does mean that we must take to heart our responsibility to give ourselves and serve those in affliction. Otherwise, our words about obeying the Word are worthless.