James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
In these latter verses from the first chapter of James, he begins to move into the subject of “religion”. Although the word “religion” would have meant many things to his audience, this word ultimately represents the Christian faith. In other words, he says, true believers will bridle their tongues, care for orphans and widows, and keep themselves unstained from the world. James is not stating that all of the Christian faith is summed up in these verses, but he is saying that Christianity without these things is worthless, or not Christian at all.
True Christian faith results in a “bridled tongue”. (James 1:26) What this means is that as believers, we need to have a tight rein on our tongues. People who have “true religion”, or who have truly been saved, will manifest that saving faith through the things that they say, and do not say. The one whose tongue is loosely reigned “…deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
James also says that true Christian faith that is “pure and undefiled” is “…to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27) In the ancient world, since there was no way for women and orphans to make money and there was no welfare system, God called His people to take care of the helpless. For instance, in Exodus 22:2, God commanded the people not to “…take advantage of a widow or orphan.” In Isaiah 1:17, God said, “…learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Lastly, James says that true Christians keep themselves “…unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) The point that James is trying to make is that believers are to make every effort to keep themselves from being stained, spotted, or contaminated by the world.
Although believers were once estranged from God and attached to the world, through faith in Christ a great reversal has taken place. Because of the finished work of Christ, believers are now united with Christ and estranged from the world.