How To Test the Practical Reality of Your ‘Real’ and ‘Practical’ Religion. They Will Know We are Christians by Our (__________) James 1:26-27

An anthropologist once visited a primitive village in Western Africa to study the customs of the very primitive people who lived there. When he returned to the U.S., he sent back a sun dial to those people to express his real thanks for their practical cooperation. The natives were delighted with their gift, and they were concerned that nothing happen to it, so they immediately built a thatched roof over it to protect it. In so doing, however, they made it of no practical value.

The foolishness of this is obvious to us all, but James says the foolishness is not always obvious to Christian people when they do the very same thing with their religion. They will take it home after church on Sunday, and they hang it in the closet with their Sunday clothes, and there it stays until the next week. It is as worthless as a sun dial under a roof. James warns us that if our Christianity is not practical, and we only hear and do not do, then we are deceiving ourselves.

James 1:26-27 Easy-to-Read Version

The True Way to Worship God

26 You might think you are a very religious person. But if your tongue is out of control, you are fooling yourself. Your careless talk makes your offerings to God worthless. 27 The worship that God wants is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. This is the kind of worship that God accepts as pure and good.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

A Christianity that is not real or practical is not a real, practical Christianity. If it does not control your conduct, and it does not change your character, and make you more sensitive to the will of God and the world’s need, then you better stop and ask some very serious questions about the practical reality of your religion.

In these last two verses of chapter 1 James has a lesson for us on how to test the reality of our religion. If your religion does not really change you, then you had better change the practical applications of your religion. James implies there are three questions that we must be able to answer with a definite “yes” if we are to be confident that our religion is not vain, but of real and practical value to God, to the real world, and to our real and practical selves living in the “real” world.

The first question that grows out of what James says is-


James is saying in a different way what Jesus said when He made the statement, “It is not what goes into a man but what comes out of him that defiles him.”

Jesus was referring to the tongue just as James is.

The Bible makes it quite clear that one of the greatest responsibilities which men have is the wise use of their tongue.

Jesus said, “By your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)

A real Christian is one who does not say, “I have freedom of speech, and so I can use my tongue as I please.” A real and practical Christian – He is one who will freely present his body a living sacrifice unto God, and that includes his tongue. He is one who is truthful with his tongue, and practical and wise with his words.

A man who can go to church on Sunday and then curse on Monday and tell a few dirty stories at the office or plant on Monday is only deceiving himself, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

If that is what comes out of his mouth, we know his heart is filled with the language of the world and not that of the Word of God.

James is saying that the man’s religion is vain, and it has no real value to anyone. He is a double minded man who will receive nothing from the Lord.

It is amazing how many people are deceived at this point. Out of the very same mouth comes both sweet and bitter. I have known men who could talk about their church work, and of how they help the church in so many ways, and then a few minutes later hear them using filthy language and do so with no respect for others in their presence.

He thinks he is very religious, but James would say because he cannot bridle his tongue, he fails the test of real religion. A foul and filthy tongue characterized the ancient world, the Christians who were won out from this type of society had a difficult time in keeping their tongues committed to the glory of Christ.

This same problem exists today, where foul language is even very common in the public schools, in modern so-called movies, as well as the workplace. It is easy for the Christian to get caught up in the common expressions of the world and thereby cease to be different from the world.

This can totally ruin your real and practical testimony and witness, make your religious commitment of no real or practical value.

The Apostle Paul was concerned about this problem also, and he wrote to the followers at Colossians and said in 3:8-10,

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: Anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

This brings us to the basic idea that James is getting at. It has to do with the use of our tongue in relationship to other Christians. When Paul says we are to put away anger, wrath, malice, and lie not to one another, he is saying what James means when he says we must bridle our tongue.

William Penn put it this way: “Men who fight about religion have no religion to fight about.”

We mentioned before that the Christians to whom James is writing were caught up in a great deal of real religious controversy. And real unbridled tongue could cause much damage. A tongue not under the control of reason and the Holy Spirit will race wildly across the field of a man’s character, kicking, bucking, and trampling it without pity, and the result will be a real victory for Satan.

Most all great men of God suffer much sorrow because of the severe criticism they receive from Christians. The speed with which Christians are ready to blast out at other Christians is the speed by which they make themselves useless to God, the world, themselves. All the good a person may do vanishes rapidly when the tongue is filled with malice and contempt for a brother or sister in Christ.

A critical and malicious tongue is a sign of self-righteousness. When a Christian becomes satisfied with his own attainment, he really tends to become critical of others. He feels if only others could be as wonderful as he is the church could get somewhere.

So, he builds a fence around his religion to protect it. He becomes narrow and bigoted, and he sets out to straighten the world according to his standard. The end result is that he does more harm than good, and his religion is as worthless as a sun dial covered over by a thatched hut without the sun and its real light.

He is trying to be a Christian without the spirit of Christ. There are many more areas where the unbridle tongue is a curse. It is clear what James is getting at, and we must be able to say that we are aware of the power of the tongue, and that we will strive to use its power according to the will of God.

If we cannot say that we had better, ask God really quick to forgive us and help us to gain the victory in this area, or our life will count for practically nothing in the kingdom of God. We may still be saved by faith in Christ, but it will be sad that all of our works will be consumed by fire, for they will not stand the test.

The second question is


Before we can answer this question, we must understand what James means by religion. This is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Many have used it to deny the basic truths of Christianity itself.

They say that religion is really and practically about our real, and practical good works, and so we can start an orphan or widow’s home, or do social work for the needy and widows, and we will get to heaven according to the Bible.

But though this seems to be logically based on this verse, we know it contradicts the rest of the Bible, and the rest of the letter of James itself. Realize, there is no salvation apart from faith in Christ.

James knows that, and in Chapter 2 verse 1 he speaks of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1:1, he is the servant, and all through the chapter he stresses prayer and the Word of God which is able to save souls. Why is all this left out when he tells us what pure religion is? We would expect him to include all these fundamental truths.

The problem is not with James, but with our context and with our language.

The practical words that James used really meant “The external service of God, and not one’s inner state before God.”

I believe James here is referring to the real and practical results of our faith in Christ, prayer, and fellowship with Christ. He is saying that if these things are real, we will be able to know it because it will show itself in our practical service. True religion is not seen in ritual observance but is deeply inside our real trust of our Savior Jesus and inside our own practical obedience to the Word of God.

What James is saying can be illustrated by really saying the same thing about a mother’s love. If I said, “Pure motherly love and undefiled before God is to wash and feed her child.” I would not mean by this that love is merely a matter of keeping a child clean and fed. I would mean that if the love of a mother is real it would show itself in a practical way in her care for her child’s basic need.

This is not the whole of love, but it is the practical result that proves the love is real. So, to really have a sympathetic concern for human need is not the whole of being a Christian, but it is the real and practical result that must be seen to know that the vital factor of faith in Christ is real.

In other words, being real and practical and good will show itself in doing good. As John said, if you can see a brother in real need and have no real compassion, how does the love of God dwell in you?

The world was filled with impractical religion then, and it always has been.

Christianity is the only pure and undefiled religion, for if God’s Word is obeyed and put into practice it will lead to the compassion of God, which, in turn, leads to vital service that makes a difference in this world of endless needs. People can come to a temple offer sacrifices, burn incense, bow and pray, and lay in “real and true” submission before God, or go through any number of practices of ritualistic religion, but if they do not go out and serve God in a real practical manner, all of this is vain and worthless.

Masses of people think they are religious because of their ritual before God, but they never show the compassion of God in the real world. Here, James says that if there is no real and practical service that grows out of one’s religion, it is not the Christian religion, but is instead a really cheap and impractical imitation.

The particular examples that James used to illustrate Christian service are the two that are used all through the Bible. In the ancient world the orphans and widows were the subjects of great injustice. There were no orphan homes, and no social security to help widows. They were often at the mercy of anyone who sought to do them harm or take their property by any means necessary.

Jesus sharply rebuked all the Pharisees who thought of themselves as the most religious of persons. He said, “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a (real) pretense make long prayers.” (Matthew. 23:14). This was a long-time practice, and they were blind to how really inconsistent it was with the nature of God.

It is really amazing to me how often people in the Old Testament had to be commanded, reminded, not to oppress the widows and the fatherless. They were constant victims of an ungodly world.

One of the characteristics that God proclaims of Himself over and over is His concern for the orphans and widows.

In Deuteronomy. 10:17-18, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow….”

Keep in mind that James was the brother of Jesus, and his mother Mary was a widow. Joseph died leaving her to raise her family as a single parent. James was using the most common examples of human need in the world of his day.

He does not limit Christian compassion to these examples, but he uses them to illustrate that a religion that does nothing to help the needs of those who are in need of help is not any religion but can be called Christian. Throughout history, real Christians have been shown the greatest source of compassion in history.

 If we keep our “real and practical” Christianity a matter of theology, feelings, and ideas, and never get “genuinely real and genuinely practical,” we are not real nor practical nor spiritual from God’s point of view.

We have looked at two test questions:

Are we prudent in our speech and are we practical in our service? If we can say yes to the first, but not to the second, our religion is not realistic enough to even minimally please God. And if we can say yes to both, but not to the third, we are still seriously and severely and catastrophically falling short of the glory of God,

and the third test is this-


To make our real religion practical we have to get out into the world to meet its needs, but James wants to make it clear we must be in the world but not of it. In other words, don’t become contaminated by the world as you seek to lift it. This means we need a constant reliance upon God.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament were to be without spot or blemish, and so in the New Testament we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable and without blemish unto God. The only way we can keep from being spotted by the world is by a careful walk and constant confession.

The Christian who is careless about the purity of his or her life has not quite understood the price that was paid to redeem him from the present evil world. There is a lack of realism in his and her religion, and it does not ring true.

The only one who can ever lift the world is the one who is above it. This does not mean to shut self-off from the world, but, like Christ, to be so busy doing good there is no time to get involved with the real world on its level of corruption.

As Phillips Brooks said, “The life of Christ was like an open stream that keeps the sea from flowing up into it by the eager force with which it flows down into the sea.” What a real masterpiece of what the practical Christian life should be-a real stream of practical activity flowing into the ocean of the world’s needs with none of the salinity of the world’s ocean waters getting near or into the stream.

True purity is gained by being “real” and genuinely positive, and not by doing nothing so as to avoid doing wrong. He who stays pure by doing nothing is evil, nonetheless, for he is a hearer and not a doer, and only deceives himself if he thinks he pleases God. God demands of us all a positive and practical purity.

We have asked three questions: Am I prudent in my speech? Am I practical in my service? Am I pure in myself? These questions test the reality of our religion. If we pass this test, it means we represent the only religion that is from above.

God does not and will not ever lower his standard to fit man. He promises His grace and power to help them grow to His standard if they hunger and thirst after His righteousness. We could never fully reach that standard. Christ was the only perfect Christian. Paul never attained it, but he kept pressing on.

All of us, without one exception, are, and will forever remain really imperfect and impractical Christians, but if our life is a constant striving to be able to say yes to the three questions we have looked at, we are real Christians, and we are practical Christians, and our religion is really, genuinely pleasing to our Lord.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us pray,

Father, my Guide and Guardian, illuminate my mind so I can understand how you want me to live. Your word tells me that people of integrity who follow your instructions are joyful. You have said that those who obey your laws and search for you with all their hearts are blessed and happy. I want that joy! Holy Spirit, please guard me against allowing evil to influence what I believe and do. Help me walk only in your paths. May my real actions (Acts 3:1-10) consistently reflect what you have said is right and good. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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