What does James 1:27 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
NASB: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
CSB: Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
NLT: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
KJV: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
NKJV: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verse, James called out anyone who labels themselves as religious, but doesn't control their tongues—their words. Such people are lying to themselves. What this implies is that it is not enough to participate in religious ceremonies, keep a few commands, or refer to ourselves as a religious followers. So far as Christianity is concerned, obedience to God is meant to be followed down to the level of every word we speak.

James lived in a very religious time in history. He was born into the religion of Judaism, a political-religious system instituted by God Himself. It had been corrupted over time by its human leadership, leading to great misunderstanding about who God was and what He wanted from His people. In addition, the culture of that era was packed with religions that included the worship of all kinds of idols and false gods. All of them had specific rules and practices. All of them gave people a false sense of security in exchange for money or loyalty or ritualistic obedience. None of them was pure or undefiled religion.

Now, though, James writes that there is a form of religious expression that is still pure and undefiled before God. It is simple, though not easy: show up with the widows and orphans in their suffering. Help them. And don't let yourself be polluted or stained by the world.

As with other verses, we need to carefully understand the point at hand. James is not restricting "right religion" to only literal care for literal widows and orphans. At the time James wrote, these represented society's most helpless members. Widows, in that culture, were women who had lost their husbands prior to bearing children. This left them destitute. Children without parents, and women without husbands, were among that culture's most needy. According to this verse, "pure" religion is defined as caring for those who are in need, and avoiding the sins of the world.

When the New Testament speaks of "the world," it usually means the "world system." This is the fallen, sin-soaked attitude of humanity, which rejects God and opposes His wisdom. Later in this letter, James will describe worldly wisdom as bitter envy and selfish ambition. To be unstained by the world means that we refuse to be driven by our own appetites and desires and selfish goals. It means not compromising with a system that hates God. Just as James pointed out in James 1:5–8, the world's wisdom is not like God's.

With this, James is also implying that it's very difficult to practice pure and undefiled religion before God…unless we see some serious changes inside of us. Merely planning to follow the right list of regulations is not enough.
Verse Context:
James 1:19–27 emphasizes that those who truly trust God don't settle for merely appearing religious. They give up trying to control the world with their words and their anger. They humbly receive the Word God has planted in them, listen to it, and proceed to do what it says. Part of what the Word says to us is that we should keep control over our words, to care for those who are weak and suffering, and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world around us.
Chapter Summary:
How important is it for Christians to trust God? It's so important, James writes, that we should call our worst moments joyful things, because trials help us trust God more. People who trust God ask Him for wisdom—and then take what He gives. People who trust God make a bigger deal about their rewards in the next life than their wealth in this one. People who trust God don't blame Him for their desire to sin; they give Him credit for all that is good in their lives. They look into His Word, and they act on what they see there.
Chapter Context:
This first chapter in the book of James sets the course for the rest of his letter to Christians worldwide. God wants us to trust Him more, and more deeply, as we learn more of Him. This is so important to God that He calls on us to find joy, even in hard times, because hardship helps us trust God more. Those who really trust God will ask Him for wisdom, will be excited about their status in eternity, will recognize Him as the source of all good in their lives, and will work to act on what they find in His Word.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 6/22/2024 6:31:09 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com