Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
- from James 1:26
Worthless? In today’s passage, James helps us see what renders religion worthless.
James is concerned about people who look religious on a Sunday but then use their tongues in destructive ways the other six days a week.
Jesus urged us that the words we use are an overflow indicator of what’s in our hearts. James is saying that if our religious practices and observances haven’t yet been integrated with how we use words all throughout the rest of our lives, then those religious practices have yet to really be integrated into our whole lives. If our religious practices aren’t shaping our character, we’re missing out on joy.
James wants his readers to experience the joy of integrity. He wants our being-doing-speaking … all of it … to all line up. This alignment allows us to be authentically ourselves, to be honest, to get help when and where we need it.
James is saying that our use of destructive words indicates that the restorative power of grace and the work of the Spirit isn’t yet holding sway over all of our lives. If we will not allow that to happen, our religious practices are worthless.
Where is there a gap between your religious practice and the way you use words during the rest of the week? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to want the grace of Jesus to shape your heart in such a way that your words reflect his goodness.