Are you a hearer only or also a doer? The question itself is simple enough, but the required introspection is quite difficult for many. Some are hearers pretending to be doers, some hear what they want to hear and do what they were never told to do, and some are hearers pretending they never heard. Then there are those who hear and do as the Word of God instructs them to do. It’s those that the enemy targets. It’s those that the enemy attacks. It’s those that the enemy attempts to sideline because it’s those who are a threat to him. Obedient believers, doers of the word, present a clear and present danger to the enemy and his plans. Lukewarm ones are just that, and the enemy pays them no mind.
Why would the devil bother with someone who poses no threat? If he can devour you, he will, but there’s a difference between a convenient meal and an ongoing, protracted attack because the individual is walking in the authority that makes the enemy quake.
James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
There’s religion, there’s religiosity, then there’s pure and undefiled religion. When something is presented as undefiled, then the possibility exists that it can be defiled. Variations of that undefiled thing likely exist in a defiled form, and James outlines the prerequisites for a pure and undefiled religion.
Much of what we see practiced today throughout Western Christianity is neither pure nor undefiled. Being the fountainhead of rickety doctrine, what was popular in the West two decades ago is now making its way to the third-world nations of the world, causing heartache and division as one would expect. If you want examples, there are plenty to be hand, but all you have to do is apply the standard James lays out to see it for yourself.
Two things are required for religion to be pure and undefiled: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. You can’t do one but not the other and expect to have an undefiled religion. Both must be present in your life, and both must be actively worked toward, and the text proves this.
If you could only do one of the two and still have a pure and undefiled religion, then the rich would always have an edge. They could give alms to the poor in such quantities that they wouldn’t have to bother with keeping themselves unspotted from the world. It would be akin to buying indulgences from the pope back in the day, and we all know how that worked out.
So what exactly does it mean to visit orphans and widows in their trouble? Are you supposed to ask for proof of widowhood or orphanhood before helping someone in need? When James references the widow and the orphan, he is isolating the two groups in society least capable of helping themselves or providing any sort of return. When you help a widow or an orphan, your name won’t go on a plaque in the foyer telling everyone how generous you were. Helping a widow or an orphan will not help advance your career or make you seem magnanimous to the crowd at the country club.
What James is saying when highlighting the widow and the orphan and insisting that pure and undefiled religion is to visit them in their trouble is that being a present help to those who would otherwise have no way of recompensing you for your kindness is the mark of pure religion.
It’s just you and an orphan, widow, or family so hungry that they’ve taken to peeling bark off trees and chewing on it. There are no galas, and there is no round of applause when you stand up to make the large donation for the new building fund or a special audience with the pastor because you gifted him a new Mercedes. No one will know except you, the person being helped, and God, and that’s the way it should be.
Show kindness to people from whom you have nothing to gain because your true heart is revealed in how you interact with the lowliest of society. We’re all human. No one is special, and when we begin to see ourselves as special or others as special, altering how we act around them, we are headed toward a life of compromise and excuses.
It’s the reason I’ve never liked lickspittles. You can’t count on them to speak the truth, you can’t count on them to point out the errors in the things you do, because they have a vested interest to remain in your good graces because there is something they gain from being in your sphere.
The weak-willed and duplicitous love to surround themselves with lickspittles and, yes men, with people who will never challenge them about anything, but they do so to their detriment. At some point, the biscuit wheels fall off the gravy train, and those you thought were loyal and true will be the first to plunge the knife into your back because they have nothing more to profit from you.
People who stroke your ego aren’t your friends, and those who challenge you aren’t your enemies. Doing something seemingly noble just to see your name up in lights isn’t pure and undefiled religion, but reaching out to the lowliest of society while keeping yourself unspotted from the world is.
We have no choice but to be in this world, but we do have a choice of whether or not we are of it.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.