“Religion that God… accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27 NIV)
In his New Testament letter, James says to the church, “Let’s talk about what truereligion is: It’s looking after the widows and orphans in their distress.” In other words, we are exercising true religion when we go out of our way to reach out to people who are hurting and vulnerable and going through stuff. When we visit them, pray for them, give to them, and encourage them, we’re living as Jesus lived; and this James knew about well, for he had grown up with Jesus.
But there are many people who just want a form of religion. They want a service, they want to sing, they want to perhaps give an offering and hear a great message; but after the service, it’s back to me, myself, and I, my family, my problems, and my success. James is challenging us to break out from our little circle and help those who have been abused and taken advantage of. And, guess what? We don’t have to go into the mission field to accomplish this! After all, who of us doesn’t run into folks who are lonely, who are hurting, who are in misery? Sadly, many of us won’t even notice, because we’re too busy concentrating on what others can do for us. But James says that pure religion is when we start looking at people’s lives and ministering to them in their suffering. Not only will we run into them by chance, but if we’re open and say, “God, use me,” the Holy Spirit himself will prompt us and will lead us to people who are vulnerable and empty. And that’s the secret, isn’t it? A holy desire that is turned into ministry and takes us from surface religion to true religion by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
Read James 1:26-27.