Read James 1:26, 27
Throughout the centuries, religions have defined themselves in terms of rules of external conduct. Lists of do’s and don’ts have allowed people to quickly assess their standing. The person’s level of adherence to these rules was directly proportionate to the degree of pleasure that the “god” of that religion found in the person. And, unfortunately, those same lists have been used by those in authority to strengthen the power and influence they exercise over the subordinates in that particular faith.
But the God of the Bible operates differently.
Given man’s inability to keep the “rules” and measure up to His standard of holiness, He did for man what man was incapable of doing for himself. By sending His Son as the sacrifice for sin, He made a relationship and rightstanding with Himself possible. Indeed, this gift of grace is extended to all but experienced only by those who surrender themselves to it. By grace, He does for us what was impossible for us to do for ourselves.
That may either seem unrelated or at least like a long introduction to the two verses you just read today. But, you might have interpreted these in one of two ways. You may have concluded that these verses define a standard that must be met in order to be pleasing to God. A person must keep a tight rein on his/her tongue, care for widows and orphans, and live a life separated from the world. The person who does that is accepted by God. That is one possible interpretation, but it is inconsistent with the message of the rest of the Bible.
The second interpretation is more accurate. A person who has responded to Christ by faith and has been accepted by God will be monitoring his/her speech, caring for others, and living different from the world. This latter interpretation describes those characteristics as being the fruit of or the evidence that the person has experienced genuine faith.
Of course, our current devotional series is focused on justice. It drives home the significance of things like widow and orphan care. But, as noted here, acts like these should be the product of genuine faith. It only makes sense that those of us who are recipients of something we could not do for ourselves would seek to bless others with something they cannot do on their own.