Together in Christ: 'Spirituality' — James 1:26-27

Friday, August 25, 2023

If you claim to be [spiritual] but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine [spirituality] in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

— James 1:26-27 NLT

Key Thought

Notice the words in brackets in today's verses — [spiritual] and [spirituality]. They replace the words "religious" and "religion" [1] found in the translation we are using [2] for our daily readings. Many people in James' [3] world, much like in our world, claimed to be spiritual. However, the early church took Jesus at His word when He insisted that He was the only way to God. [4] The apostles insisted that there was no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. [5] For disciples, both then and now, this means that Jesus is our standard, our example, and our truth. His words and life call us to a holy standard and define what "authentic spirituality" should be for all of us as His disciples.

James insisted that people claiming to be spiritual yet who don't control the use of their speech, lovingly care for orphans and widows, but allow the world to creep in and stain their character are fooling themselves. They mislead and deceive themselves! Jesus said something similar:

"A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you." [6]
. . .
"...the words you speak come from the heart — that's what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you." [7]

James gave us these three alignment checks to help us discern the authenticity of our godliness and spirituality. So, dear friend in Jesus, we regularly need to examine our life alignment to these three tests for authentic spirituality. Just as a car needs its wheels aligned to track correctly, our lives must align with Jesus' values. We must strive to...

  1. Control the use of our speech so that it is a blessing, not harmful or profane.
  2. Care for the fatherless and the widowed, especially those struggling through difficult circumstances.
  3. Commit to being pure and holy to honor God while not allowing the corruption of the world to stain our character.

Each of us will fall out of alignment occasionally, so this simple three points of alignment check will help us track more perfectly as we follow Jesus as God forgives us of our failings, [8] and the Holy Spirit transforms us to be evermore like Jesus. [9]

[1] The word translated is θρησκεία (threskeia) which has a base meaning of "religious worship" or "religion", or "worship." It does not carry a negative undertone as the word "religion" connotes in today's common usage.
[2] We use The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, ©2015. Used by permission. However, the original languages are frequently consulted for insight and added depth.
[3] Throughout our year-long devotional, we treat the author of the epistle of James to be James, the half-brother of Jesus and the great leader of the church in the book of Acts.
[4] John 14:6.
[5] Acts 4:12 and 1 John 2:7-11.
[6] Matthew 12:33-36.
[7] Matthew 15:18-20.
[8] 1 John 1:5-10, 2:1-2.
[9] 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23.

Today's Prayer

O, dear Father and almighty God, please forgive me. I find myself abusing others through my words, dishonoring You with my words, growing callous toward those who are vulnerable and in need, and letting the ways of the world cloud my heart and taint my character. I know You forgive me as I confess, and I commit to using these three simple tests to do a character check on myself. I want to grow in righteous character, gracious compassion, and faithful justice, so my life and spirituality more clearly reflect Who You are to me and what You want me to be. Thank you, in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Acts 6:1-7
  • 1 Timothy 5:3-16


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Illustration of James 1:26-27 NLT — If you claim to be [spiritual] but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine [spirituality] in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

About This Devotional

Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.

'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.