As we enter into our passage this morning I want to you to notice that the verses directly before it call our attention to the importance of being hearers of the Word and doers of the Word, is it then any surprise that directly after James tells us this he gives us direction to put that truth into action in 1:26-27? How are we to be doers of the Word? Have true religion, not false religion. Isn’t it kind of God to give us such advice rather than keeping us in the dark about how we’re to live?
In the original Greek text of the NT word order is very important, and unlike English, the most important subject in the sentence is brought right up to the front. In the Greek of our passage we find the word “threskos” or “religion” (sometimes translated as “ritual” or “ceremony”) not only at the front of 1:26 but at the back of it as well creating a sort of bookend idea to the whole verse. The word is also brought directly to the front in 1:27 too – why does this matter? This matters because in this Greek word order we see what is most important to James in these two verses. To James this whole passage is about one thing – true or false religion.
A question then comes into view, I think, for most of us. Would we, or perhaps should we, consider ourselves as being “religious?” Does this rise out of the text for you? It does for me. I think most of view the word “religion” as a dirty word because in whatever context the word comes we seem to understand it as a word of confinement, or a cage, or a box, and you know how much modern man enjoys to feel confined right? One time in particular I recall doing this myself. I was 19 years old, God hadn’t saved me yet, I was a freshman in college, hanging off a climbing rope 1100 ft. in the air on a cliff, thinking to myself – “I love this. Good view, good climb, sunny day, does it get any better?” Then the phrase that came into my mind next is telling about where my heart was at the time.
Beholding the glorious view I thought to myself, “Who needs religion? This is my church.”
Little did I know how religious I was being at the time, bowing and worshipping at the altar of the creation rather than the Creator. God saved me a year later, and too the eyes of many, I became very “religious.”