“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” ~ James 1:27
Explanation of the Text: In contrast to verse 26, James gives a different example of a doer who has a pure, undefiled religion instead of one that is worthless. He is indicating here that one who has true Christian faith will give evidence of being a Christian in the outward faith that is expressed. What James does is provide some examples of true Christian faith. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather an appropriate guide. To do this, he illustrates two distinct areas of faith.
The first area is in Christian conduct, which is an outward expression of true religion. Specifically, it is pleasing to God to visit orphans and widows who are in the middle of affliction. The word visit is not a simple reference to stopping by for a brief chat, but is actually indicative of taking care of them. Helping them with both their physical need and spiritual needs, it is the duty of the church to help provide for these groups of people.
The second area is of Christian character, which is an inward expression of true religion. One who exercises true religion is a person who abstains from the evils of the worldly system. Separating from the world in order to remain unspotted by the stain of sin, the Christian will seek a life worthy of the calling in which he has been called (Ephesians 4:1). The only way in which a person can remain unspotted from the world is by being a doer of the world, paying attention to the teachings outlined in Scripture.
Examination & Application of the Text: As we look at this text today, we have already outlined that one should be a doer of the Word. However, looking at the examples James has given, we see this doer evidence in his relationships with people. While James mentions orphans and widows, this list is not exhaustive. Special emphasis is often given to these groups of people because they are the most vulnerable. As you reflect on application of this text, who are the most vulnerable people in your life? Who are the most vulnerable people in your church? Are you personally involved in the lives of people that you come in contact with on a daily basis? As a doer of the word, it is time to look at those you interact with and truly get to know them. Find out what their needs are. This requires relationship building. It means spending time with a person, being open and honest so that you can know them more intimately. Only then, can you be involved in the life of that person, because only then do you truly understand them. As a doer of the word, we are to pour into the lives of others and build them up for the sake of building up the body of Christ. If you don’t know what’s going on in the life of the person next to you, perhaps now is the time to take them out to coffee and chat. Learn about that person so you can be involved in the life of that person. Likewise, this builds a mutual relationship between the two of you, not for the sake of self-edification, but for the sake of the work of Jesus Christ.