If you had to define what it meant to be religious, what would you say? Would you talk about going to church, making the sign of the cross, or prayer?
And, if you were asked about “freedom of religion” in our society, what would you say? Would you talk about the separation of church and state? Or, perhaps, would you say that the religion is being persecuted during the pandemic because churches are closed or the services are limited?
For most of us, “religion” is about the ceremony. But, as we see in today’s passage from James, religion has nothing to do with ceremony.
The Bottom Line: True religion is about how your walk the way by helping those in need and not showing favoritism within your community.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? (NRSV)
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their adversity and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to? (NETS)
Pure and undefiled religion before the God and Father is this: to watch over orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unstained by the cosmos.
My brothers, hold to the faith of our Lord of glory, Jesus the Anointed, without any respecting of persons. For if a man were to enter your synagogue with gold on his fingers and in splendid attire, and a destitute man in begrimed attire were also to enter, And you were to look at the one wearing the splendid attire and say, “Here, be finely seated,” and were to say to the destitute man, “Stand over there” or “Seat yourself below my footstool,” Have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges whose deliberations are wicked? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has not God chosen the destitute within the cosmos, as rich in faithfulness and as heirs of the Kingdom he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the destitute man. Do not the rich oppress you, and haul you into law courts as well? Do they not blaspheme the good name that has been invoked upon you? (David Bentley Hart)
As far as God the father is concerned, pure, unsullied devotion works like this: you should visit orphans and widows in their sorrow, and prevent the world leaving its dirty smudge on you.
My brothers and sisters, as you practise the faith of our Lord Jesus, the anointed King of glory, you must do so without favouritism. What I mean is this: if someone comes into your assembly wearing gold rings, all dressed up, and a poor person comes in wearing shabby clothes, you cast your eyes over the person wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Please! Have a seat up here!’ but then you turn to the poor person and say, ‘Stand there!’ or, ‘Get down there by my footstool!’ When you do this, are you not discriminating among yourselves? Are you not turning into judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. Isn’t it the case that God has chosen the poor (as the world sees it) to be rich in faith, and to inherit the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. After all, who are the rich? The rich are the ones who lord it over you and drag you into court, aren’t they? 7The rich are the ones who blaspheme the wonderful name which has been pronounced over you, aren’t they? (N.T. Wright)
θρησκεία ⸆ καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ o1τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ⸀ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ⸂ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν⸃ ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.
Ἀδελφοί μου, μὴ ἐν προσωπολημψίαις ἔχετε τὴν πίστιν ⸂τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῆς δόξης⸃. ἐὰν γὰρ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς ⸆ συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, εἰσέλθῃ δὲ καὶ πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι, ⸂ἐπιβλέψητε δὲ⸃ ἐπὶ τὸν φοροῦντα τὴν ἐσθῆτα τὴν λαμπρὰν καὶ εἴπητε⸆· σὺ κάθου ὧδε καλῶς, καὶ τῷ πτωχῷ εἴπητε· σὺ στῆθι ⸄ἢ κάθου ἐκεῖ⸅ ⸀ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν ⸁μου, ⸂καὶ οὐ⸃ διεκρίθητε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς καὶ ἐγένεσθε κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν; Ἀκούσατε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί· οὐχ ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο τοὺς πτωχοὺς ⸂τῷ κόσμῳ⸃ πλουσίους ἐν πίστει καὶ κληρονόμους τῆς ⸀βασιλείας ἧς ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν; ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠτιμάσατε τὸν πτωχόν. ⸀οὐχ οἱ πλούσιοι καταδυναστεύουσιν ⸁ὑμῶν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἕλκουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς κριτήρια; ⸀οὐκ αὐτοὶ βλασφημοῦσιν τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς;
What is The Way?
Fr. Dustin Lyon explores scripture to rediscover Christianity so that we can walk in the Way of the Lord.