Do you see it?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard this scripture quoted many times, you’ve probably even read it many times. What I want to know, is if you see and hear what I’ve missed? Let’s read it again, only slower.
“Religion – that God our Father accepts – as pure and faultless is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
Yep, that’s what I’ve heard quoted time and time again over the years. What a wonderful God we serve! He cares for each of us and wants us to love each other too. He wants us to look after each other, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, to mow the lawn and visit the lonely. Meet the need! Doesn’t it feel good when we get to do so?
But, did you see it? It’s so often overlooked or just never said. We read the verse. We quote the words. We have it quoted to us. Though like in the above, it’s rarely said in its entirety. We often stop reading before the “and,” or if we do read it our minds have already stop listening. Why?
For those of us who have heard it regularly, I think we’ve been conditioned to stop before the “and” because we think we already know the verse. Our human nature kicks in and we’re already onto wanting next. I mean, ok, take care of widows and children who do not have parents. Now, tell me something I don’t know! I also think we fail to see and hear the “and” because it’s the hardest thing to do. Giving a meal to a hungry person or hugging a child is easy compared to what else is required of us. Then again, maybe we stop hearing it because we simply don’t want to, or it just doesn’t fit in with our agenda we’re trying to push that day–if ever.
Here it is, the “and,”
“and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
WHAT?! Yep, it’s really there! I read about eight different translations and they’re all the same. How does keeping “oneself from being polluted by the world” fit in with looking after orphans and widows? It does tie in, because the worldview is for us to do anything and everything that makes me feel good about me, and to be or become whatever will gain me social accolades. Sure, feeding hungry children can get you those accolades, but then the heart’s motive is selfish (polluted) not God pleasing. Try saying you believe in and long to live by the Ten Commandments today. See how the world responds to that. They will be quick to point out where you fail, treat you as if you are a lesser species, and many will call you intolerant, even if you are caring for the needs of others.
God knows that for us to have a pure heart, we have to have our heart right with Him. If we allow the world to pollute us with its ideologies, then He can’t pour Himself through us to love those in need around us. Sin will erode our minds and harden our hearts toward God and others. It will hinder us from experiencing all the tenderness He has for us and dampen our ability to give and receive sincere love.
We’re told in verse one that James was writing to the Christians, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” So this tells me, a Christ follower, that I am vulnerable to the sins of this world and must guard against its deception.
We’re reminded in verse fourteen, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” The New Living Translation states it this way, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.”
It is my responsibility to “keep from being polluted by the world.” I will only have myself to blame if I don’t. The temptation will look and taste good for a moment. It’s enticing! But, it will soon become bitter in the stomach and poison the body, leaving us unable to care for the needs of others. What goes in will come out, so we must stay on guard!
Am I the only one who has failed to see the “and” in James 1:27? It makes me wonder how many other ands, therefore, ifs, or buts I’ve missed. How many times have I put a period on a verse where there’s only a comma? It may just be time to revisit a few of our favorite verses, those we think we already know, and the words surrounding them. God’s word is alive! He is always speaking! We will hear Him if we’ll pause to truly listen, and see. It’s our responsibility.
How do we stay on guard against the pollutants of this world? By filling ourselves with the entire Word of God, all of the ifs ands and buts.
~ Lord give us sight ~