Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

James 1:26

James’ letter has a few unique features, not the least of which is his word choice. You may well be familiar with the verse above, it is popular for a good reason. The hidden feature of this verse is the word he chose which our English translation renders as “religious”. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament Greek text. From other appearances in Greek writings we can gain its definition and the connotation it seems to carry; most commentaries seem to agree that it refers to the forms of religion, its ceremony and its outward presentation.

James is calling on his readers to ensure that their inward character and the good things done in secret (Matthew 6:1-4) are matching their apparent piety in their worship. Do we do what we say? Do we truly follow Jesus? Or do we instead only present an outward show of religion?

Ethan Kirl