I wonder how many Christians, especially since the Reformation, genuinely believe what James — in powerful adaptation of his brother — says in James 1:26-27.
If anyone considers himself religious and
yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and
his religion is worthless. 27 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.
The words are clear; the implications clear; the message nonetheless seemingly either hard or exaggerated. What do you think?
Jesus, too, put a big value on the limitations of what we claim (cf. Matt 7:21-23) and on the expectation of deeds of mercy (Luke 10:25-37). Here James is standing in the same water as the Master of Galilee.
And James pushes against the claim of being religious and pious and acceptable before God: the sketch of James is clear and vivid. This person stands in front of us and makes the claim that he or she is religious.
Claims without deeds are vacuous. What we think of ourselves may be self-deception. How do we know the difference? (Come back tomorrow.)
Gal 6:3: For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
1 Cor 3:18: If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.
1 Cor 10:12: So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.