The English word “religion” is found five times in the New Testament (Acts 26:5; Galatians 1:13,14; James 1:26,27). All of these references stem from two Greek words, one of which is “threskeia”, which basically means, “ceremonial observance”. The other is “Ioudaismos”, which also translates as “Judaism” or the “Jews’ religion”. In James 1:26,27, we find two of the five references to the word religion, and they certainly do not refer to a “religious system” or set of rules.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been challenged in the Word to live out our faith in a real and practical way. Like in the days of Paul, we live in a day and age when talking theology or spirituality is very popular (1 Corinthians 4:19,20). The Bible tells us, however, that we can tell a good tree by its fruit (Luke 3:9, 6:43,44), not just talk. Brother James hits us right in the heart in today’s text when he reminds us that the fruit spoken of as evidence of a good tree are the good works that we have been ordained to walk in as believers (Ephesians 2:10). We see in God’s Word once again that pure religion is practical. We also see that if I claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and cannot bridle the words that come out of my mouth, (which theme will be revisited in chapter 3), my religion is vain, empty, and meaningless.
Before we were saved, the call of Christ was, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28-30); after we gave our hearts to Christ, the words we hear are, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19) and, “Abide in Me” (John 15:1-10). When we are truly abiding in and following Jesus Christ, people around us are going to be blessed, needs are going to be met, and the unsaved are going to come into contact with life-changing salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
Jesus came to give us life and that more abundantly (John 10:10b), not some dead religious system of rituals and regulations (Hebrews 9:13,14). Like Jesus, may each and every one of us be about Our Father’s business, and in doing so, bring glory and honor to His holy Name.