Farmers know that a controlled fire has huge benefits; so they carefully burn certain portions of their land — to stimulate grass to grow; to put back nutrients into the soil; to expose seedbeds to the sun, and to keep out unwanted growth. One expert says after a controlled fire has burned off, the land is pure, leaves are shiny, and flowers are perfect. This illustrates a truth James speaks about in chapter 1 or his letter to Christians. He urges God’s people to get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives — much as a prairie fire gets rid of unwanted rubbish. James then explains how we do it. He says it happens as we humbly accept the word God has planted in our hearts. He says God’s word has the power to rid our lives of trash. He then alerts us to this sobering truth: When we merely hear or read God’s word and never put it into practice, we deceive ourselves! He then illustrates what he means. He says if we claim to be religious, claim to be a worshiper of God, but do not control our tongue, we are fooling ourselves, and our religious worship is worthless. He explains that pure and genuine religion in the sight of God affects our behavior. It means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt us. Our Lord delights in people who not only profess faith in Him, but who show their commitment by the way they live.
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