If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 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. James 1:26-27
Throughout the letter, James comes back to three main themes, given in these verses: taming the tongue, having a heart of biblical justice, and staying free from the world’s pollution. As you read the letter of James, look for places where you see one or more of these themes. All of these pour out from a heart that has been changed by God. It is faith lived out in everyday life. James indicates that anything other than this is a scam and is worthless for achieving any sort of salvation. It is not because these works are needed. Rather it is because genuine faith must produce these things in the life of a person. Genuine faith that brings salvation truly changes a person from who they were into something new. James will not allow for anything less. If your heart reveals itself in an unbridled tongue, or a lack of care for those who are oppressed, or an unbridled attraction to the things of the world, then you must ask yourself if you truly have a saving faith. You may think you do, but your religion is worthless. If, however, you find your language changing, your care for the downtrodden being awakened, and a distaste for worldly things then you will know that you have a heart that has been changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and you will have a hunger to be more and more the person who is in close relationship with the Lord. So, is your religion pure?