Daily Devotional: Day 75
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, RSV).
Religion is good (I’m not referring to institutionalized religious groups broadly labeled as “Christianity,” “Islam,” “Buddhism,” etc.). And today, the Word of God describes for us what good religion looks like. The Letter of James characterizes good religion as pure and undefiled before God. And it tells us that pure and undefiled religion consists in visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping oneself unpolluted by the corruption of the world. This is a succinct, yet powerful biblical definition of religion. It tells us in practical terms how to distinguish pure religion from false religion. The term religion used in this context, therefore, refers to observable evidence displayed by professed Christians who back their confession of faith with practical works of love, wholehearted devotion to God and detachment from a worldly lifestyle.
God wants us to be attentive to the needs of vulnerable people in our communities. At the time James was writing, orphans and widows were in this category. Even today, there are millions of orphaned children around the world who are hoping to be received into a family. According to a 2012 report, in the USA alone, almost 398,000 children are living in the foster care system, out of which 101,666 are eligible for adoption (source: https://adoption.life/2015/us-and-world-orphan-statistics/). These are not the only vulnerable (afflicted) people in our society. We can also include thousands of homeless people as well as those who can’t afford a doctor, clothing or even a meal. We don’t have to look far. Some of these people are in our churches, some live in our neighborhood, and still others probably live next door. The Bible says that truly religious people should make it a priority to visit and assist vulnerable people among us. If they are fellow Christians, the obligation is even more urgent, because through the Blood of Jesus, they are our family.
God isn’t expecting us to solve everyone’s problem; but He is expecting us to do what we can, based our means. Finally, God says pure religion means abstaining from the defilement of the world. This is true, for as James 4:4 says, whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. If there was ever a time to display pure religion, it is now. Are you religious?
Dear Father, thank you for all your blessings. Make me sensitive to the needs of people around me. And give me an open heart to reach out and bless them for your glory. Also, I give you my heart. Keep it unstained from the world. Thank you that you always hear my prayer. In the Name of Jesus.
For further study: Isaiah 1:1-18