I’ve wondered at times how my “religion” appears to family members and friends who do not share my faith. Do they think I’m a religious nut, or a fanatic? I hope they don’t, and certainly hope they never think of me as a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy happens when my mouth and my life do not match. If I talk about honesty, I’d better be honest. If I talk about anything that I should do, I’d better be doing it.
Yea, but . . . doesn’t everyone want to look good? Make a good impression? Not everyone can see me in action, so isn’t it okay if I talk about it? Can’t I tell people that I know this and am an expert in that? Or that I’m doing this and that as I serve God?
My own questions make me think hard. Sometimes God does ask me to share what I know and what He has me do, but oddly it is at times when I would rather be quiet. In the realm of religion (and I think this word ‘religion’ simply refers to the externals, the way my faith appears to others), James 1:26 offers this: “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.”
Paraphrase: If I think I have great external expression of my Christian faith, but cannot control the way I talk, then I am deceiving myself because without that control, all those external trappings have no value at all.
My husband often quotes someone who said something like, “Be quick to share the gospel with everyone, sometimes using words.” In other words, my life is to be an example of who Christ is and what He has done. If it doesn’t show without words, then my words are in vain. In fact they could do more damage than good.
These are harsh thoughts for someone who likes to talk and write. I love words. How can I express my faith without them, or at least in ways that even those without faith will see and understand? I know this is possible because Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The next verse in James gives a partial answer: “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.”
God isn’t interested in my perfect church attendance, or that I teach a Bible class, or any other outward expression of my faith that might (or might not) impress anyone. He is interested in a heart that can be charitable toward those who cannot pay me back, and a heart that is not sucked into the world’s value system (whatever feels good, looks good, builds my ego, etc.). He wants me to be free from any desire to impress others, whether they have faith or not.
As I read these verses this morning, I am thinking how familiar they are, yet they jump out at me today. They are ‘rhema’ words, rhema being a Greek term for ‘a word for the moment’ or something said by God that has particular relevance for my life today. It is the term Jesus used when He said, “Man (including women) shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Today, I’m to live by this. I will be out running errands and tonight attending an awards dinner related to my husband’s work. God is clearly telling me that at no time I’m to be yakking about myself or what I think are my virtues. Just be loving, generous, and ready to help anyone, particularly those who cannot return the favor. Be totally free from selfish ambition or any desire to impress others.
In my curious mind, I’d like to know why today, why are You speaking about this, God? But He isn’t about to show me the significance of obedience. He simply asks that my heart is ready to do whatever He says and that my mouth is under control so I will not talk about it.