by Darwin Hunter


If you ask someone this question almost immediately they will reply, “Of course, I go to church quite often!”  However, isn’t it possible to attend public worship assemblies regularly and still not be religious?  James, the brother of the Lord, insists that many do that very thing!  He described “pure and undefiled religion” as more than “church-going,” but a life which is completely yielded to God and devoted to serving others! James 1:27 (NKJV) reads:


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


Religion is more than public ritual.

Many modem church members who are very regular in their attendance at worship gatherings have not captured the true essence of Christianity.  They feel that their “duty” to God is fulfilled by “going to church.”  Evidently, first century Christians had the same problem since James addressed the matter back then. Pure religion, according to the Bible, is more than dressing up better than usual, taking your place on a pew, and engaging in the five acts of worship.  These actions prescribed by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God are vitally important, to be sure, but they are not to be viewed as the totality of the Christian life.

What else is involved in being a true Christian? James answers that concern for the needy, and compassionate acts of kindness done for them is “pure religion” (1:27).  The person who leaves worship, sees those in need, and simply says, “Be ye warmed and filled” (but does nothing to alleviate their suffering) is practicing a dead religion (James 2:14-17).  The person who exits the worship assembly and begins to gossip, and to slander his brother, has missed something about the true nature of serving the Lord.  James says, “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, NK.JV), The church-goer who leaves worship and engages in worldly living throughout the week has failed to “keep himself unspotted from the world,” which the preached Word in our worship is designed to help him to do!  James adds later that to be a “friend of the worldis to make oneselfan enemy of God” (James. 4:4).  Why did the worshiper come?  Could it be that he mistook public worship for being a Christian, or being religious? As an old saying goes, “Sitting in a church-house will no more make you a Christian than sitting in a hen-house will make you a hen!”

Attending worship can help us if we become “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James. 1:22)!  The man who leaves his religion on the pew he vacates after worship has forgotten to incorporate into his own life the life-giving, soul-saving message of divine truth.  James says in essence, “His religion is a worthless sham!”

Does your religion change you?  Has worship benefited you?  Are you really religious? “Pure religion” is more than pew-warming; it is a heart-changing, and life-shaping practice of New Testament teaching!