20/5/01 8.00 am Easter 5 B.C.P. James 1:22-27
Jas:1:22: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23: For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25: But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26: If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
I recently had a wedding enquiry from a couple who turned up on a motorcycle wearing leathers. I chatted with them and it turned out they only covered about 2000 miles last year and had a car for most of the time. Twenty three years ago I had a Norton Commando motorcycle. I had friends who had motorcycles and we would often go out for the day whatever the weather and return wet and with cold-numbed fingers. However, some wouldn't be there if the weather was rough. They didn't wear the right clothes because they looked too smart. Their bikes didn't make the right noises. They were labelled posers or fair weather bikers.
James is writing about what it means to be a true Christian. He was addressing people who claimed to be Christians but who argued, acted immorally, and didn't help their less fortunate brothers and sisters. He says that Christianity is not just about what you say, or what you listen to, but it is about what you do.
These Christians hear the word of God, then go away and forget it, living unchanged lives. James wrote that they are deceiving themselves. He compares them to people who look at their reflection in a mirror, go away and forgets what they look like.
Christians need to listen intently to God's word. Really getting to grips with the Bible. And then putting it into practice, and keep on putting it into practice. Every day. Whatever the weather. Even if it does not appear to be smart.
He gives three practical tips on what we should do. He says :
watch your mouth; 26: If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
James is referring to someone who goes through religious rituals, but does not have a tight reign on his tongue. When a horse bolts it can be very dangerous. So an uncontrolled tongue can cause severe harm, a topic that James returns to in Chapter 3. Again, James writes that such a person deceives themselves.
help the helpless; There are two types of sin. Sins of commission, something that you do that is wrong, and sins of omission, when you fail to do something that is right. This is what James refers to, 27: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
This is referring to practically helping the fatherless and widows, not just visiting them ! At this time there was no welfare state and those without a father or husband had no financial support, unless they had family to help. We are all in the family of our loving, heavenly father. We may never meet a destitute orphan or widow in this country, but this doesn't man that they don't exist.
In Africa AIDS is rife, 3 million people died of AIDS last year. There are many widows and 12 million orphans, with the number rising. Local churches are helping those affected with love and support. TEAR Fund is one organisation who is supporting these local churches and, by supporting organisations like them, we can help the fatherless and widowed.
thirdly Christians are to be pure.
and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The world describes the total system of evil that affects every part of human existence. It is opposed to God and to righteousness. We are to follow the way of God. Because this opposes the way of the world this may result in opposition and ridicule, but we are to persevere in our faith.
To summarise, we could say that true Christianity is about receiving and doing God's will. This will involve loving others and holiness before God.