Dave led the Bible study on Thursday, looking at James 1:26-27.

The end of chapter 1 talks about religion and the religious. It highlights the sin of rash speech (which James will develop further in chapter 3), urging us to keep a rein on our tongues (see Ps 34:13, Ps 39:1). Trials and pressures often force rash speech from us, so we need to take care not only with what we say, but how we say it.

When we think about religion, we often lay on it our traditions and patterns and ways of doing things. 1 Sam 15:1-22 reminds us that doing is not always correct; Saul was more concerned with doing what he thought was needed to be done rather than with obeying what was important. Religion is often more concerned with doing than being; it lays a lot of importance on the outward form, whereas God works ‘from the inside out.’ (See also Matt 5:18-19) The law is not the problem; the law is a guide, not the actual purpose (Matt 5:17).

Outward conformity to the law can actually lead us astray, as the Pharisees so often demonstrated. If people don’t do things our way, we often condemn them with our tongues.

Verse 27 defines what ‘pure religion’ is (see Deut 10:18, Is 1:16-17). God as ‘Father’ looks after people; the command is that we should be like God, and therefore we should do the same. Christianity has always been defined as a caring religion. Prov 14:31 reminds us that those who are kind to the needy honour God; Ps 113:7-9 gives us a glimpse into the tender heart of God which we should emulate. God enables us to live in freedom from the pollution of the world system and ideologies (2 Pet 1:4, 2 Pet 3:14, Titus 2:12). Peer pressure exists for us all (not just for teenagers, as Rom 12:2 makes clear), but we must resist the pressure to conform to the world’s systems (1 John 5:18-19). It is unfortunately too easy to compromise (1 John 2:15-17), but this kind of compromise inevitably leads to great harm.