Where the world comes to study the Bible

James 1:26

26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 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. — KJV

26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 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. — NIV

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:26 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ei [1487] if, whether, that (conditional participle) tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat dokeo [1380] to think, suppose, seem good threskos [2357] ceremonious in worship, religious, pious einai [1511] to exist (am, is, was, be…) me [3361] not, no, none, never chalinagogeo [5468] curb, bridle, lead by bit glossa [1100] tongue autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) alla [0235] indeed, nevertheless, not withstanding apatao [0538] to cheat, delude, deceive kardia [2588] the heart: thoughts, feelings, mind, middle autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) toutou [5127] of this, hereby, such manner of, thereabout, thus mataios [3152] empty, profitless, vain, vanity, an idol ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) threskeia [2356] ceremonial observance, worshipping

1.26.0 Introduction to James 1:26

The last major topic James tackles in Chapter 1 is religion. Verse 26 discusses bad religion. Once again talking about doing the wrong thing and falling into deception, James explains that an uncontrolled tongue results in false religion. This verse is a source of several questions about religion, one’s tongue, and the relationship between them.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.1 What is religion?

The Greek word threskeia, according to Strong’s, means a ceremonial observance related to worship. It implies an external display. As we have long since established, God looks at what lies within a man. What a man does, apart from God, has no value. When a man is united with God spiritually there will necessarily be good fruit brought about by the inner working of the Spirit through the outward flesh. Understanding these simple relationships are critical, I believe, to understanding what James is saying in this passage.

In context with James 1:26-27 religion appears to be more than just a ceremonial observance. Perhaps I would rephrase to something more like: a behavior pattern designed to exhibit one’s beliefs.

Another way of phrasing verse 26 then might be: If anyone thinks his outward behavior demonstrates worship of God and does not bridle his tongue but deceived his [own] heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.2 What makes a person religious?

Ac 17:16, 22-23a Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, The terms “religion” and “religious” actually appear only a hand full of times in all of scripture and then only in the New Testament (ESV). According to this passage what you worship defines your religion. The amount of your worship determines how religious you are. In this particular example Paul was remarking on the Greek idols in Athens.

Jn 4:23-24 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Our God seeks for us to worship not with idols, but in our spirit, with The Spirit and Truth (emphasis added). This is internal, from the heart.

In the context of James’ verses here we see James addressing those who claim to be worshiping Christ, but their worship is nullified by their actions of disobedience to His Will. The kind of worship accepted by God is to do His will through service and to avoid willing participation in sin.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.3 Is religion good or bad?

Lk 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. You need only contrast James 1:26 and 1:27 to see religion can be good or bad. It depends on whether it is pure and undefiled in the eyes of God. To go outside obedience to God in your heart results naturally in running your mouth in defiance of God because the mouth follows the heart.

Ro 10:9-10 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Just as the mouth can condemn by carrying out the sinful desires of the heart, the mouth can also redeem by carrying out acts of obedience to the Lord.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.4 What does bridle mean?

In this verse the term bridle is a verb. It means to control or restrain as with a bridle (n). The noun bridle refers to a device used on horses to restrain and guide the animal. James 1:26 uses the term to refer to controlling and restraining one’s tongue (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.5 What does it mean to bridle your tongue?

2 Sam 23:2 The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. In this passage, if you read 2 Samuel 23 in full context, you will see David is speaking. David is saying that he is actually only a vessel of the Lord who speaks through him. David was obedient in controlling his tongue so that it did not do as his own flesh willed, but willingly submitted it to the authority of God. I believe this is the ideal toward which we all should strive.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.6 What happens when you don’t bridle your tongue?

Is 32:6-7 For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. If you do not control your tongue, then who does? The flesh, apart from God, is of the world and so it is the plaything of Satan. It destroys the very body it belongs to as well as all it encounters.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.7 How can this verse be used in a practical way for spiritual warfare?

Eph 6:16-17 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, This is a brief portion of one of the most well known passages of scripture and certainly most quoted with regard to spiritual warfare. As it relates to James 1:26, submission of the tongue to God means allowing the Word to be used by God through you. Stand in boldness for greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). The Word is not the book, but the Lord (Jn 1:1). When his Spirit dwells within (Jn 14:17), its purpose is to make you able to stand (Eph 6:10) so that in the end you will be justified before God because God was responsible for you (Gal 3:24) because you allowed Him to be (Jn 3:16).

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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. — ESV

1.26.8 How does an unbridled tongue make your religion worthless?

Mt 6:1-2 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. When you don’t control your tongue you are lying. The flesh on its own is without Christ and thus without Truth, therefore it lies. It has no Truth within it. It speaks, pretending to know Truth for its own benefit, but it is at best an act. If you do a good thing and you boast about your goodness, you lie. An uncontrolled tongue will cost you eternal reward by seeking and finding carnal favor.

1 Jn 4:2-5 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. The unbridled lying tongue is of the world and anti-Christ. Free yourself of condemnation by getting control of your tongue and giving that control to the Spirit of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.