Pure and Undefiled Religion

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27, ESV


Have you noticed how unpopular religion is? I have heard people say ridiculous things like, "I don't like religion" or "I love God, but I hate religion". I suppose what they mean is that they do not like what has become of organized religion, but I think like so many other spiritual matters it is because they are sadly uneducated in the Word of God, but they are up to date on the teachings and opinions of man. The solution to this misunderstanding of course is knowledge. And knowing what the Bible says concerning religion - true religion - is vital.


So, here are a few questions for those who say they hate religion: Do they hate widows? Do they hate orphans? Or do they just hate the idea of visiting widows and orphans? Do they hate being unstained by the world? Well, with the possible exception of the last question, the answer would have to be "no". Even the most reprobate among us would be hesitant to think that taking care of widows and orphans is something worthy of disdain. So, what is the problem? The problem is that people don't realize that the religion they despise is nearly always a religion of men, because God's religion is something that makes us a better people who are actually a benefit to others.


Take the part about visiting widows and orphans in their affliction. This is not talking about dropping by for  chat when they are in the middle of suffering. Rather, God is letting us know that religious people will actually do something about their suffering. It can be taught in simple ways. Our teens have been mowing lawns for our widows for nearly three decades now. It was not an easy "sell" at first, for our teens were the typical youth group that liked having fun whenever they got together and work did not seem all that much fun. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with having fun (I myself am a huge proponent) but there seemed to be a gap between being entertained and being useful. Now, our teens are looked upon with great appreciation by our older folks who find themselves needing more of a helping hand than they did earlier in their lives.


I have noticed a closing of the "generation gap" as now these two age group have something in common. Our older ladies have appreciated the help, and it has been a help for the work is often hard and they would have likely had to spend a lot of money that they didn't have to hire someone to do it. It's not unusual to see them bring in a plate of home baked cookies for these young men and women who have helped them, nor is it unusual to see the teens helping the ladies to their cars after the worship on windy days. Who knows, there might be cookies in their cars!


I have also seen the children in the grade school and pre-school Bible classes making cards and writing letters to our older folks. I have also seen their parents encouraged to have these kiddos stop by the pantry and pick something out for the food drives we occasionally take part in for the orphans homes. All of these things, though certainly not at the "apex" of visiting widows and orphans in their distress, have a way of training up our young people to learn what pure and undefiled religion is.


And as to keeping oneself unstained by the world, I think we all can see that we may be falling short in this command. Maybe that's why we claim to not like religion at times, because religion is hard to maintain. People don't like having their lifestyles "cramped" and this moral purity business will sometimes do just that. The solution though is not to rail against religion, it is to keep away from things that will corrupt our lives and souls. By keeping unstained from the world, we can actually enjoy life more, not less.


I remember on man whose teenage daughter told about a conversation she had with a guy that wanted to take her out. He wanted to take her dancing, but she told him she didn't dance. He told her they could go to a party, but she said she didn't drink. He then asked if she didn't dance and she didn't party, what did she do for fun? She told him that she got up in the mornings and was able to still look herself in the eye because she hadn't done anything to be ashamed of the night before. And that, she told her prospective date, was fun! This type of stand can only be taken by someone who has been trained in pure and undefiled religion... and it is rare!


I believe when we look at the subject honestly we will see that true religion is something to be admired, and we need to be training ourselves and our children to learn how to do it. Of course we realize that the passage above goes way beyond just mowing a lawn for a widow or bringing a can of green beans for the orphans. But these things are excellent for training up our children in the way they should go in these areas, and will hopefully lead to bigger and better things.


And when you think about it, that's about as true and effective of having a religion that is pure and undefiled as we can get. It is all about our helping others when we see a need that isn't being met. Added to that is our responsibility to maintain our moral purity in such a way as to please God and keep our own self-respect. The result of all these things is the religion that God intended for us to have in the first place. It is not a sense of self-righteousness, nor is it an attempt to appear righteous in the eyes of others just for appearance's sake. It is being useful and productive in our actions and upright in our conduct that will please God and Christ, and it will at the same time draw others to Them as they begin to see the benefits of a good life. For religion, when it is done right, is one of the greatest benefits that mankind will ever know.