Is There A Religion That God Calls Pure and Faultless? #132
[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/14348240/height/360/theme/standard/thumbnail/yes/direction/forward/” width=”100%” height=”360″ scrolling=”no” class=”podcast-class” frameborder=”0″ placement=”top” use_download_link=”” download_link_text=”” primary_content_url=”http://chtbl.com/track/C2GDE1/traffic.libsyn.com/biblemystery/BibleReadingPodcast132.mp3″ theme=”standard” custom_color=”#87a93a” libsyn_item_id=”14348240″ /]Hello friends and welcome to the weekend! As a heads up, the next few podcasts might be a little on the shorter than normal side, as I am preparing for a small road trip with my daughter, and will have to record a few episodes to upload while gone. So – the plan is – Lord willing! – for there to be an uninterrupted stream of episodes all next week, but to do that, I’ll need to record a few in advance. Rejoice ye podcast saints who like the shorter episodes, but mourn all ye who yearn and hearken with joy unto the longer episodes. This should all return back to normal by next Saturday. Today’s Bible readings include Numbers 17 and 18, Psalms 55, Isaiah 7 and James chapter 1, which is our focus passage for today, based on the final verse:
26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
So – is there a religion that God calls pure and faultless? Yes! And it is James 1:27ism. Thanks for listening to today’s show – Godspeed!
Okay, I’m kidding. Shorter, but not quite that short…we haven’t even read Numbers yet! One thing to address before we get to the big question. The word ‘religion’ here in James 1:26-27 is the Greek word ‘θρησκεία thrēskeía.’ In one sense, ‘religion’ is a pretty good translation of the word, but to a modern reader, I believe that the word ‘religion’ means something quite a bit different than what James is communicating here. When most here the word ‘religion’ they think about all of the various different religions of the world – all of the different practices of faith and beliefs about salvation, etc. That doesn’t appear to be – at all – what James is talking about here. I think a better translation of the word is ‘God-fearing,’ for at least two reasons. #1 Threskia is derived from a Greek word ‘θρησκός thrēskós‘ which means fearful or trembling, and is sometimes used in the context of worshipping God. #2 James isn’t talking about all of the religions of the world and how to please their various deities; He is telling Christians how to please God – how to walk in a God-fearing, God-pleasing way. That said, I can’t find a SINGLE modern translation that agrees with me, so you should trust the translators and not me.
Regardless, I believe that every modern Bible translator would agree that James 1:26-27 is indeed teaching us what God finds pure and faultless, and there are three elements to it:
#1 To please God, we MUST control our tongues – our words, our speech. The good news is that we don’t have to speculate what James was talking about in terms of using our words in a God-pleasing way, because he tells us a few paragraphs later:
9 With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.
#2 To please God, we must look after orphans and widows – those who are fatherless, motherless or parentless and those who have lost their husbands. How big of a deal is this to God? I’m glad you asked:
- 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:16-18
- The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalms 146:9
- “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. Exodus 22:22-23
- 19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Deuteronomy 24:18-20
- 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 14:28-29
- Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalms 68:5
- “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalms 82:2-4 – This is God castigating the other elohim.
- Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”– Deuteronomy 27:19
- 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. Jeremiah 22:3-4
- 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ Zechariah 7:9-11
- But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless. Psalms 10:14
- Do not move an ancient boundary stone
or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong;
he will take up their case against you. Proverbs 23:9-11
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”says the Lord.“Though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:16-18
#3 – Pure and faultless God-fearing is to keep yourself from being stained/transformed by the world. James goes on to elaborate on this point sharply as well:
4 You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. 5 Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely
As a kid, you sometimes wonder if your parents have favorites. As a youth minister, I definitely saw parents with kids who were their favorites and kids who weren’t. As a dad of 5, I haven’t really had to struggle with that much, all my kids are very different, but I’ve not ever had a favorite – they are all my favorite. I wonder sometimes about God, though. Does He have favorites…if He does, I think I know who they are: widows and orphans, and I’m not even kidding.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he saves those crushed in spirit.