James 1:26

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. James 1:26

Here James moves from the person who hears the word but doesn’t do it, to the person who deceives himself in his religiosity. He first says, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious.” James is speaking in general terms to all by saying “among you.” However, he is identifying individuals in that group. If there is anyone among his addressees (which, by default, includes anyone today as his letter is a part of God’s word) who “thinks he is religious,” he is to pay heed.

The word James uses for “religious,” thréskos, is found only here in the Bible, and nowhere else in any Greek writings. Its origin is uncertain, but it has a kindred noun which occurs in Acts, Colossians, and James, and which deals with reverence or worship of the gods. Its meaning is probably that of a careful observance of the restrictions laid out in practicing one’s religion. Do you feel this describes you? If so, pay attention to what James says.

Going on in his words, he says, “and does not bridle his tongue.” The word “bridle,” is introduced into the Bible here, and it is used only once in Scripture, again by James. It means to curb or restrain. Proper exercise of religion is an act of bringing the entire body into submission. A person who submits to God in one way, but throws off His guidance in another has not fully restrained himself. Think of a horse being restrained and coming to a halt, but its tongue flies out of his mouth and keeps on neighing down the road. This is what James is referring to. Instead of restraining his tongue, he instead “deceives his own heart.”

When a person acts piously and does everything with a great show, he naturally thinks he is in tight with God. However, if his little tongue, which is still a part of his body, isn’t restrained, then he has proven that he has simply deceived himself. Those around him can tell that he is not what he appears to be. And so, from there James says, “this one’s religion is useless.”

The word translated as “useless” signifies vain or worthless. In his attempts to be religious he has failed in what he purposed. There is a defect in his conduct which demonstrates, with all clarity, that he is not the man he appears to be from a distance. The tongue has revealed what the heart is actually like. This is spoken of by Jesus on several occasions, such as in this parable –

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37

Life application: We should be able to understand, quite clearly, that our words reflect our character. If we can’t keep a rein on our tongues, then no one, including the Lord, will see us as anything other than irreligious.

Such is the case in almost every instance of someone who speaks too much. Eventually, he runs out of truths to tell and so he will keep on speaking with falsehoods. His words are meaningless because they have no truth or substance behind them. Solomon gives the cure –

“Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2


For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

Instead of dreaming about being religious, act and speak as one who really is. Have control over your tongue and stand in awe of God. When you speak, let your words reflect both love and respect for Him and for others. By doing so, they will also reflect what is actually going on in your own heart.

Lord Jesus, how often we fail to keep our tongues in check. As Your servants, give us wisdom when we speak and let our words be carefully selected to be truthful, uplifting, and above all – glorifying of You. Help us to be the type that people can come to when they want to hear only words of truth. In Your precious name we pray. Amen.

Leave a Reply