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. 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." James 1:26-27

The term "religious" has a bad connotation these days. When we hear that someone has religion, we consider them a spastic screaming freak similar to the mother in the movie Carrie. But the Greek word used here for religion is threskeia, and it means outward worship or ceremony.

That thrills me because James implies that God is not as much impressed by the raising of our hands or chanting "Jesus" over and over or attending an end times seminar as much as he is by our genuine heartfelt caring for other people and by maintaining our integrity. Oh, yeah, and by keeping a tight rein on our tongue. Ouch!

1. In what areas do you have a hard time keeping a tight rein on your tongue? Gossip? Playing know-it-all? Fixing other people with your advice? Cussing? Yelling at drivers on the highway? Putting down your kids or spouse?

2. Think about not only the words you say but the tone of voice you use. Does it sound "pure and faultless" to you?

3. Who are the "orphans and widows" in your life? What are you doing to "look after" them?

3. In what ways are we polluted by the world? How can we guard against it?

Ask your spouse or friends to help you listen to your speech this week - be open-minded and allow them to point out times when you haven't kept a tight rein on your tongue. Pray for God to protect you from the world's pollution and to give you a heart for the "orphans and widows" that you come into contact with.

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