And, finally, we get to this question of religion. Which many of us in the room last night said we recoil at that word. We don't like being called "religious." But this scripture can help us with what that really means and it's great news! If we were truly "religious" in this way, people would love Christians and "religious" people!
James gets to this point to Accepting the Word and Doing the Word but what can this lead to? Religious "practices." It looks good but it becomes mere ritual and not Christ-centered. So James lists 3 penetrating dimensions of religion that are acceptable to God:
1) Control of the tongue - how many sins can you think of that are caused by our tongues? James obviously knows this is a big deal and dedicates chapter 3 to address it. Just to let you know, James is not addressing if we sometimes have an unbridled tongue it's if we have an habitually unbridled tongue.
2) Help those who cannot help themselves = orphans and widows. These two persons in NT days were helpless without men to take care of them in their Patriarchal society. It was up to Christians to lend a charitable hand to meet their needs and help them in their plight. And this is not just to give money but to be personally involved with them. Hands-on caring.
3) An unpolluted life - I think this comes back to the question from the beginning - what does a righteous life look like? This may look different for everyone but certainly includes what this passage addresses - quick to listen, slow to speak and become angry. Listen to the word AND do what it says. Watch what you say and help those who can't help themselves. That may be a good start to this unpolluted life.
Any other ideas?
I love how this passage involves our Words, our Hands, and our Hearts. I am challenged to my core and the dog is my test :-)