There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. —Soren Kierkegaard. "…truth is true even if nobody believes it, and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it. That is why truth does not yield to opinion, fashion, numbers, office, or sincerity–it is simply true and that is the end of it" – Os Guinness, Time for Truth, pg.39. “He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” – Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard
Gideon is usually looked on as the greatest of Israel’s “judges.” It was he who delivered the land from the hordes of the Midianites. He was of the half tribe of Manasseh which dwelt west of the Jordan in the same central valley where Barak had overthrown Sisera. Here Gideon was one day threshing out his father’s wheat, doing it in a secret place lest the wandering Midianites should discover and seize it. To him there suddenly appeared an angel, sent to bring him the divine command that he should rescue Israel.
Gideon was amazed and troubled. His family was poor and few in number, and he himself was unnoted. Moreover, as he frankly told the angel, it seemed as if God had wholly deserted Israel to slaughter and starvation. Gideon offered to make a sacrifice of worship to the Lord, and asked for a sign that this was indeed the Lord’s messenger who spake with him. So the angel, having bade him set his sacrificial offerings on a rock, touched them with a staff. Immediately they flamed upward in fire. Then the angel disappeared, leaving Gideon in fear of death. But the Lord Himself spoke to the startled young man and promised him support.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.
Fulfilled once in the first advent of our glorious Lord, and yet to have a fuller accomplishment in His second advent, this gracious word is also for daily use. Is it dark with the reader? Does the night deepen into a denser blackness? Still let us not despair: the sun will yet rise. When the night is darkest, dawn is nearest.
The sun which will arise is of no common sort. It is the Sun—the Sun of Righteousness, whose every ray is holiness. He who comes to cheer us, comes in the way of justice as well as of mercy, comes to violate no law even to save us. Jesus as much displays the holiness of God as His love. Our deliverance, when it comes, will be safe because righteous.
Our one point of inquiry should be—”Do we fear the name of the Lord? Do we reverence the living God and walk in His ways?” Then for us the night must be short; and when the morning cometh, all the sickness and sorrow of our soul will be over forever. Light, warmth, joy, and clearness of vision will come, and healing of every disease and distress will follow after.
Has Jesus risen upon us? Let us sit in the sun. Has He hidden His face? Let us wait for His rising. He will shine forth as surely as the sun.
1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled. James stresses concern for widows and orphans as a true measure of obedience that is pleasing to God. It reflects the concerns of God Himself (Deut. 10:18; Ps. 9:18 note; 68:5; 146:9). Israel was given this responsibility in the Old Testament (Deut. 14:29; Ezek. 22:7).
1:27orphans and widows Orphans and widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient times (Deut 14:29; Ezek 22:7; Acts 6:1–6).
1:27 Pure and undefiled religion. James picks two synonymous adjectives to define the most spotless kind of religious faith—that which is measured by compassionate love (cf. Jn 13:35). orphans and widows. Those without parents or husbands were and are an especially needy segment of the church (see notes on 1Ti 5:3; cf. Ex 22:22; Dt 14:28, 29; Ps 68:5; Jer 7:6, 7; 22:16; Ac 6:1–6). Since they are usually unable to reciprocate in any way, caring for them clearly demonstrates true, sacrificial, Christian love. world. The evil world system (see notes on 4:4; 1Jn 2:15).
1:27. Equally, any claim to being religious is dashed to the ground by a failure to help the needy, or by any sinful practice derived from the unbelieving world around them. Pure and undefiled religion is far more than a few basic liturgical routines. The God and the Father of James’s readers—the Father of lights who had regenerated them (vv 17–18)—looked for more than such routines. What best expresses His nature and character is mercy and personal moral purity. This means James’s readers needed to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep themselves unspotted from the world.
Any Christian who fails to mingle with and assist those who have greater material needs than his own is in serious danger of being infected by the world’s selfishness, greed, and indifference. No amount of prayer and church attendance can compensate for the loss of compassion and involvement with the poor. Charity to the poor channeled in an impersonal way through the government or other institutions is not at all the same thing.
1:27. A clean and undefiled religion is one in which one’s conduct and character are disciplined in accordance with God’s Word. The Greek word thrēskeia (religion) appears only four times in the New Testament and two of those occurrences are here (cf. Col. 2:18; Acts 26:5). It is apparent that God’s emphasis is not on religious ritual but on right living.
James outlined what God the Father (cf. “Father” in James 1:17) stresses: look after orphans and widows—referring to one’s conduct, and keep oneself from being polluted—referring to one’s character. “From being polluted” translates one word aspilon, “spotless” (cf. 1 Tim. 6:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14), in contrast with moral filth (James 1:21). A believer with God-pleasing “religion” helps others in need—and thus is faultless (lit., “pure, undefiled”), and keeps himself pure (lit., “clean”). This is not a definition of religion but rather a contrast to mere acts of worship and ritualistic observances that are commonly called “religion.” Again, the goal is a mature Christian walk and practical holiness. What does it take to achieve that goal? The first step is to stand with confidence. Trials or temptations will not topple one who is anchored in God’s truth and is applying that truth to his life.
1:27. Two evidences demonstrate pure religion: deeds of compassion and inner purity. This does not reduce Christianity to mere benevolence. True religion has more features than James has mentioned. The emphasis here is that for God to accept our worship it must be accompanied by loving ministry and a holy life. Both Christians and non-Christians could see and understand this type of evidence.
To look after orphans and widows demanded demonstrations of concern and active involvement. The psalmist pictured God as a defender of orphans and widows (Ps. 68:5). Christ used the word for look after in Matthew 25:43 to describe the ministry of caring for those in prison. Obeying this appeal calls for more than an occasional visit. It demands genuine compassion and true engagement.
(Not) polluted demands a freedom from contamination by the world. Peter used this word to refer to Christ as “without … defect” (1 Pet. 1:19). Christians are to model their purity after that of Jesus.
Some months ago I assembled a small playset with a sliding board and some climbing sections. I placed it in my backyard for my grandchildren to use. Although the process was not difficult, I constantly referred to the instruction book so I would know where to fit each piece. The writers of the book know how their product should fit together. I needed to follow their directions.
We must follow God’s instructions devotedly if we want to produce a lifestyle honoring to God. Obeying God’s Word demands control of the tongue, a compassion for others, and a separated life. These are the identifying marks of pure and faultless religion.
1:27“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight ofourGod and Father is this” This expresses true religion in terms of service, as do Deuteronomy and Matt. 25:31–46. Also, see Micah 6:6–8 for a definition of true religion. The verse reflects Judaism’s almsgiving (cf. Matt. 6:1) which was thought of as an evidence of one’s relationship to God. Holiness is not a radical separation from society, but an involvement in the needs of the poor and socially ostracized (cf. 2:15–17).
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.
Scripture is not a book with concise definitions that can be applied to specific instances. The Bible teaches us the way of life that is pleasing to God and to our neighbor. Thus, James gives us not a precise definition in this verse but rather a principle.
a. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless.” When James says “God our Father,” he immediately introduces the family concept. We are God’s children because he is our Father. He expects us to pay due respect and love to him, to our brothers and sisters in God’s household, and to all people (Gal. 6:10). Within the family of God love is the prevailing characteristic because God himself is love. God sets the example.
Here are a few random Scripture verses that illustrate this characteristic:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. [Ps. 68:5]
The Lord watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow. [Ps. 146:9]
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien. [Deut. 10:18]
For the pagans run after all these things [physical needs], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. [Matt. 6:32]
If, then, God sets the example, he expects his children to do what he does. If they follow God’s example, they demonstrate religion that is “pure and faultless.” These two adjectives show the positive (pure) and the negative (faultless) aspects; together they denote the essence of religion. And how do we practice our religion? James gives two examples:
b. The first example pertains to the social circumstances and conditions of his day: “To look after orphans and widows in their distress.” Social conditions in ancient times were such that orphans and widows were unprotected because they had no guardian and breadwinner. God himself, therefore, filled that role. He exhorted the Israelite to be a protector and provider for the orphan and the widow (for example, see Deut. 14:29; Ezek. 22:7; Acts 6:1–6).
The person who exhibits true religion visits the “orphans and widows in their distress.” He puts his heart into being a guardian and provider, he alleviates their needs, and shows them the love of the Lord in word and deed (Matt. 25:35–40).
c. “To keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Even though James urges us to become socially involved in helping needy people around us, at the same time he warns us to stay away from a sinful world. Do we have to isolate ourselves from the world? No, we are always in the world but not of the world (John 17:14).
Therefore, we ought not to imitate the ways of the world; rather, we ought to practice godliness. Writing about the coming of the Lord and the end of the world, Peter says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14; and see 1 Tim. 6:14). In a sense James repeats what he said earlier, “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent” (1:21). Members of God’s family have the word holy written on their foreheads. They “know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (James 4:4). They love and serve the Lord truly and sincerely.
27. We must keep in mind that James is not attempting here to summarize all that true worship of God should involve. As Calvin says, ‘he does not define generally what religion is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing.’ Religious ritual, if done from a reverent heart and in a worshipful spirit, is not wrong—and God’s word cannot be ‘done’ unless it is first ‘heard’. But James is concerned about an overemphasis on the ‘hearing’ to the neglect of the ‘doing’. Two other areas of life that are to reveal evidence of our reverent ‘listening’ to the word are introduced in the verse: social concern and moral purity. Care for orphans and widows is commanded in the Old Testament as a way of imitating God’s own concern for them—he is the ‘father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Ps. 68:5). In a text that bears many similarities to this passage in James, Isaiah announces that God will no longer recognize the worship his people offer him (their ‘religion’); they must ‘wash and make yourselves clean … Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow’ (Isa. 1:16–17). The orphan and widow become types of those who find themselves helpless in the world. Christians whose religion is pure and faultless will imitate their Father by intervening to help the helpless. Those who suffer from want in the Two-thirds World, in the inner city; those who are unemployed and penniless; those who are inadequately represented in government or in law—these are the people who should see abundant evidence of Christians’ ‘pure religion’.
Moral purity is another hallmark of pure religion. To keep oneself from being polluted by the world means to avoid thinking and acting in accordance with the value system of the society around us. This society reflects, by and large, beliefs and practices that are unchristian, if not actively anti-Christian. Believers who live ‘in the world’ are in constant danger of having the taint of that system ‘rub off’ on them. It is important and instructive that James includes this last area, for it penetrates beyond action to the attitudes and beliefs from which action springs. The ‘pure religion’ of the ‘perfect Christian’ (v. 4) combines purity of heart with purity of action.
27. Pure religion. As he passes by those things which are of the greatest moment in religion, he does not define generally what religion is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing; as when one given to wine and gluttony boasts that he is temperate, and another should object, and say that the temperate man is he who does not indulge in excess as to wine or eating; his object is not to express the whole of what temperance is, but to refer only to one thing, suitable to the subject in hand. For they are in vain religious of whom he speaks, as they are for the most part trifling pretenders.
James then teaches us that religion is not to be estimated by the pomp of ceremonies; but that there are important duties to which the servants of God ought to attend.
To visit in necessity is to extend a helping hand to alleviate such as are in distress. And as there are many others whom the Lord bids us to succour, in mentioning widows and orphans, he states a part for the whole. There is then no doubt but that under one particular thing he recommends to us every act of love, as though he had said, “Let him who would be deemed religious, prove himself to be such by self-denial and by mercy and benevolence towards his neighbours.”
And he says, before God, to intimate that it appears indeed otherwise to men, who are led astray by external masks, but that we ought to seek what pleases him. By God and Father, we are to understand God who is a father.
1:27 / In contrast to the pious person with the sharp tongue, the religion that God our Father considers pure and faultless is not primarily ritual and pious practices but looking after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. The first characteristic, that of active charity and concern for the helpless and weak, is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament (Deut. 14:29; 24:17–22) as well as the New (Acts 6:1–6; 1 Tim. 5:3–16). The orphan and widow, along with the foreigner and Levite, formed the traditional poor of early Israel. True piety, then, will help the weak, the poor, for God is the helper of the helpless (Deut. 10:16–17).
The second characteristic focuses on the world, a designation common in Paul and John for human culture, mores, and institutions (1 Cor. 1–3; 5:19; Eph. 2:2; John 12:31; 15:18–17:16; 1 John 2:15–17). True piety is not conformity to human culture but transformation into Christ’s image (Rom. 12:1–2). For James this means specifically rejecting the motives of competition, personal ambition, and accumulation that lie at the root of a lack of charity and an abundance of community conflict (e.g., 4:1–4). In declaring this alone to be true religion in God’s eyes, James declares that conversion is meaningless unless it leads to a changed life.
Caring for the needy (v. 27)
James tells his readers to visit the orphans and the widows in their trouble. These two groups of people were the most helpless in that time. So James was calling for his readers to show compassion to the most helpless.
There is something here that we must not allow to slip by. James was writing to people who had troubles of their own! And yet he tells them that they must not forget to show compassion to others! One of the very best things we can do for ourselves when we are in trouble is to help someone else who is in trouble.
There are all kinds of aching, hurting people around us, and we must not simply turn our heads and pass by.
One of the saddest dimensions of our day is that so many Christians are so absorbed with their seminars, charts, notebooks, study groups and discipling techniques that they don’t have the time to bake a pie, send a card or mow the grass for the sick, the elderly and the lonely. It’s easy to be a very good Pharisee while the world cries for a good Samaritan.
By the way, James is not alone in making this emphasis. We can find it in several other Scriptures, one of which is from the apostle John:
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
(1 John 3:17–19)
Separated from the world (v. 27)
James calls his readers to keep themselves ‘unspotted from the world’. The word ‘unspotted’ can also be translated ‘unsoiled’ or ‘unpolluted’.
To be unstained from the world is to maintain both personal integrity and moral purity. It’s to refuse to allow the world to set the standards for our beliefs and our conduct.
This is a polluting world! It can pollute our thinking, our speaking and our doing. Many who profess to be Christians give evidence of that pollution. They have set aside the clear teachings of the Word of God because they do not want to be out of step with what the world says. The authority for these people is not the Bible. It is the latest opinion poll!
And many who profess Christ have been polluted in their speaking. They talk just like everyone else. They would rather run the risk of offending God than sound different!
And many who suppose themselves to be Christians have polluted behaviour. They order their lives in exactly the same way as those who make no profession of faith at all.
There was a time when Christians considered it to be essential to be different from the world. They believed that only by showing the difference could they hope to attract unbelievers. Now, in a crazy flip-flop, the church is often saying the opposite. The church is trying to attract the world by being just like the world, not realizing that if Christianity is not different, there is no need for it! We can’t hope to influence the world for Christ if we allow it to influence us in our thoughts, words and deeds.
As we have noted, we shall find James developing later in this letter his points about controlling the tongue and caring for the needy. The same is true on this matter of being separated from the world. Here is one of his most telling and biting statements about the world: ‘Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God’ (4:4).
So James has set quite an agenda before us. Controlling the tongue! Caring for the needy! Staying separate from the world!
Is it possible to be saved and fail in these areas? Sure. But it is not possible to always be failing in these areas and be saved! May God help all of us to search our own hearts.
1:27 James now moves from a general observation about useless religion to the specifics of “pure and undefiled religion” (1:27). Purity was for many Jews, especially those whose faith was centered in the Temple, the core concern of Judaism and life.174 Furthermore, purity was defined by Torah, and James was well-known for his Torah piety. And there is every reason to believe that, even if James sees purity figuratively (as did Jesus, Mark 7:1–23) and as an internal condition that transcends or is “more important than” the external manifestation, James was both Torah-observant and concerned to live within the laws of purity. It has often been inferred, at times without careful consideration, that because James (like Jesus) saw purity as deeds of mercy he must have rejected the typical sense of purity in Judaism. This is a non sequitur. To see purity as an internal condition does not necessarily eliminate the desire to follow the Torah’s purity guidelines. For James, to be pure means to be marked off in worldview from those who are unjust, oppressive, and worldly, and the marking off was more internal-moral versus external-moral. But being marked off is not just separation: it is the devotion to compassion and Torah observance that determines the separation.
A text like Hermas, Parables 60.1 (5.7.1) is apposite for James 1:27: “Keep this flesh of yours clean and undefiled, in order that the Spirit that lives in it may bear witness to it, and your flesh may be justified.” James after all is rooted more in Torah than in anything else. So, when he says “pure” one thinks of Genesis 8:20 (“clean animal”); Leviticus 4:12 (“clean place”); 7:19 (“clean” flesh), and for “undefiled” one thinks of Leviticus 18:24 (“defile yourselves”) or Deuteronomy 21:23 (“defile the land”). Thus, “pure and undefiled” are purity terms to describe the condition of a person and his or her aptness to live in the Land or enter the Temple for worship in utter fidelity to God and Torah. Not only are these terms derived from the Torah, what James contends constitutes that purity is also from the same source. Thus, to anticipate the next section, James says “pure and undefiled religion … is this: to care for orphans and widows,” which itself comes from Torah legislation:
Exodus 22:22: “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.”
Deuteronomy 10:18: “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing” (cf. James 2:14–17).
James’s appeal to “unstained” in 1:27b is of the same cloth.
The specifics of the positive side to what James is getting at are now deepened by contending that the purity James is concerned with is one that has to do with God. It is not impossible to understand “before God, the Father” polemically and interpret it as a contrast with “before the Temple” or “before the Torah.” But there is very little evidence that James fashions the messianic community as anything other than a fully functioning Jewish community, including Temple worship, that believes Jesus is the Messiah. A life before God the Father, who is the creator (cf. Sir 4:10), can be a life of Torah-keeping purity, even if that purity is understood to transcend the outwardly observant and to include deeds of mercy. In other words, there is nothing non-Jewish about what James is saying here.
James defines “pure and undefiled religion” as follows: “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Early Christian visitation was anchored in the goodness of God, who is the Father and creator, and in Jesus’ practice of ministering to the marginalized and hurting. Thus, in Luke 1:68 and 78, Zechariah extols God’s “visitation” of the last days. Jesus cared for the marginalized (see Matt 8–9) and urged his followers to participate in visitations and care for the naked, sick, and imprisoned (Matt 25:36, 43), and many have made of this the very presence of Christ among the marginalized. The example of Jesus, buttressed as it is by such teachings from James, has led many to a life dedicated to the poor and wounded, and one thinks here both of St. Francis and the founders of hospitals and hospice ministries.181
The first manifestation of a “pure and undefiled religion” for James is care for “orphans and widows.” The connection of “orphans and widows” is typical for the Old Testament (e.g., Ezek 22:7) and Judaism. This injunction flows from Old Testament legislation into the glowing prescriptions of Isaiah 1:17:
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
Turning from idolatry meant turning to mercy for the orphan:
Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy (Hosea 14:3).
Tobit, too, described his own piety by his treatment of the orphan and widows:
A third tenth I would give to the orphans and widows and to the converts who had attached themselves to Israel (1:8; cf. 1:3–9).
Josephus tells us that the Essenes nurtured orphans in their community.
The annexation of “widows” to “orphans” sheds light on the meaning of the latter. Recent study of papyri has shown that to be called an “orphan” requires only that one has lost one parent and not both. In other words, “orphan” often meant “fatherless” (or “motherless”) rather than “parent-less,”186 bringing into sharper focus why for the “fatherless” James may be pointing to God as “Father” in this text. Here is an example from a funerary inscription for a man where the term does not mean “parentless”:
(Envious fortune has done you wrong and)
given tears to your mother in her old age,
widowhood to your wife,
as well as making an orphan of your poor child.
Clearly, the deceased leaves behind a wife and child, and the child is called an “orphan.”
“Widows,” too, were a special concern of Jesus and of the early messianic community, and this concern extended into the first few centuries.189 There is no reason to assign a source for James’s concern: it is biblical, it is found in Jesus’ ministry, and it is socio-economically present for the first messianic community. Anyone who practices the Jesus Creed of James 2:8–11 will see the needs of the orphans and widows and will respond with compassion.
James says the messianic community is to be characterized by compassion for orphans and widows, and he adds “in their distress.” What sort of distress is James talking about? Some recent commentators have observed that the word thlipsis (“distress”) is often connected to the eschatological tribulation or final ordeal and have suggested that James has this in mind here.192 Others opt for the more normal sense of thlipsis when connected to both widows and orphans: either bereavement or poverty.194 James does not directly describe any of the distress of the messianic community as part of the eschatological woes; instead, he blames persecution on the persecutors as part of his broader emphasis on human responsibility.196 The eschaton is the time of establishing justice and reward, while the present time is one of testing and trials in order to form the moral character (1:2–4) as the messianic community pursues justice and peace. If the eschatological view of “in their distress” with “orphans and widows” does not have much in its favor within the text of James, it can also be considered a customary expression referring to poverty and possibly to bereavement. It seems most likely, then, that with “in their distress” James is describing the socio-economic and emotional condition of the widows and orphans rather than the eschatological location of those sufferings.
The second indicator of pure and undefiled religion is “to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The concern to be “unstained” (aspilon) expresses the reverence of earliest Christianity and its commitment to holiness. In 1 Timothy 6:14, “without spot (aspilon) or blame” is used of confessional purity, and in 2 Peter 3:14 “without spot (aspiloi) or blemish” is used of moral purity. What James says is like the latter since his concern is with being unstained “by the world.” “The world” stands in contrast to “the kingdom” in 2:5 and to “God” in 4:4. And, though in 3:15 James does not use “world,” the sense is similar: “Such wisdom does not come down from above [God? kingdom? heaven?], but is earthly (epigeios), unspiritual (psychikē), devilish (daimoniōdēs).” And this “wisdom” refers back to 3:14 where James is most concerned with “bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts” and being “boastful.” Which stands in contrast to 3:13: “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” Once again, we are in touch with themes that resonate throughout James 1: wisdom, good works, and a gentle life of good works—and this in contrast to social disruption, violence, and arrogance. Worldliness for James pertains to human forceful efforts to establish justice, peace, or God’s will.
Throughout 1:26–27 James has utilized cultic imagery, or at least language that seems suited especially for the Temple. This language is intended to compel the messianic community to strive for holiness in the sense of moral fidelity and compassionate behavior.
The Importance of Right Actions (1:27)
27 By contrast, what then is “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless”? The term “pure” has a wide range of meanings and could refer to being clean from dirt, guiltless in terms of morality, or, in terms of religious ritual, something fit for offering to God (cf. Lev 18:22–27). The other adjective, translated by the NASB as “undefiled” and the NIV as “faultless,” is a synonym used elsewhere in the NT only in three places. Hebrews 7:26 speaks of Christ’s character as a perfect high priest; in Hebrews 13:4 the author stresses the importance of sexual purity in marriage; and the Christian’s inheritance is said to be “undefiled” in 1 Peter 1:4. Thus the religion James has in mind is not corrupted by the sin of neglecting the disadvantaged, nor by enmeshing oneself in the world’s immorality.
The admonition to care for widows and orphans expresses a widely held virtue of Jewish piety. God’s concern for the poor and distressed, his taking their cause of justice and basic sustenance as his own, must extend to the person who is God’s follower in the world. Widows and orphans especially had little means of provision for basic needs other than the care and generosity of their broader communities. Thus the person who claims to be religious in the best sense must seek to address the plight of the poor and most vulnerable (Isa 1:17). Further, true religion takes morality seriously. Here James may be echoing his exhortation of 1:21, which, as we have already suggested, probably refers to malice and conflict with others in the community. This form of wickedness and its contrast with wise living receive generous treatment in James (3:1–12; esp. 3:13–18; 4:1–12; 5:7–12). Thus James concludes his introduction with exhortations that lead into critical concerns in the letter’s main body.
Willingness to Apply the Word Without Selfishness
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, (1:27a)
The second proper reaction to the Word of God is the willingness to apply it to one’s life without selfishness, with genuine concern for the welfare of others, especially those in great need. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is to serve them with love and compassion. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Katharos (pure) and amiantos (undefiled) are synonyms, the first emphasizing cleanliness, the second denoting freedom from contamination. James is not speaking of what may seem best to us, best to the world, or even best to fellow believers, but what is best in the sight of our God and Father. The genuineness of anyone’s religion is not determined by his or her own qualifications or standards but by God’s. The greatest spiritual mistake of the scribes, Pharisees, and other Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus was in that very regard. They had replaced God’s standards in the Law with their own man-made traditions. Of such men Jesus said, “You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me’ ” (Matt. 15:6b–8).
Episkeptomai (to visit) means much more than to drop by for a chat. It carries the ideas of caring for others, exercising oversight on their behalf, and of helping them in whatever way is needed. It is from the same root as episkopos, which means “overseer” and is sometimes translated “bishop” (see the nasb and kjv texts of Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25). Episkeptomai is used frequently in the New Testament of God’s visiting His people in order to help, strengthen, and encourage them (see, e.g., Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16; Acts 15:14 kjv; the nasb reading uses the expression “how God first concerned Himself about”; and Heb. 2:6 kjv; the nasb reading uses the expression “concerned about”).
In speaking of the separation of the sheep and goats in the day of judgment, Jesus used the word to describe those who truly belong to and love Him, saying, “I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me” (Matt. 25:35–36, emphasis added). Actually, all of those ways of ministering could be included broadly under episkeptomai.To visit in a way that is pleasing to our God and Father is to meet as best we can all the needs of orphans and widows and any others in their distress.
Generally, the neediest people in the early church were orphans and widows. There were no life insurance or welfare programs to support them. Jobs for either group were scarce, and if they had no close kin, or at least none who would help them, they were in desperate straits. But the principle applies to anyone in need. Because such people without parents and husbands are unable to reciprocate in any way, caring for them reveals true sacrificial love.
God has always had special concern for orphans and widows and has commanded His people to reflect that same concern. David affirmed that “a father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5). The Mosaic Law included the instruction, “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan” (Ex. 22:22), and,
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” … “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.” (Deut. 14:28–29; 27:19)
Through Jeremiah, the Lord declared to Israel, “If you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever” (Jer. 7:5–7).
Loving, selfless service to others, especially fellow believers, is also a frequent New Testament theme. Paul gave the command to “honor widows who are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:3), which included bestowing financial and any other help that was needed. John declares that
the one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.… By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.… We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.… We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 2:10–11; 3:10–11, 14, 16)
Later in 1 John, he says,
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7–12)
True Christianity is manifested from a pure and loving heart by the way believers talk and by the way they act. It is manifested by how they love and care for those who are in need, not by how they love and care for those they prefer, those who are close to them, or those with whom they share common traits and interests. Love is to be the central and most visible manifestation of salvation. And, as John makes clear, love for God cannot be separated from love for others, especially for fellow believers and most especially for those who are in … distress. The professed Christian who does not show such compassion has reason to doubt that he is born again. A truly redeemed heart reaches out to others (cf. Matt. 5:43–48; John 13:34–35).
Willingness to Apply the Word Without Compromise
and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (1:27b)
The third proper reaction to the Word of God is the willingness to apply it to one’s life without moral or spiritual compromise.
To keep translates a form of the Greek verb tēreō, indicating regular, continuous action. In other words, keeping oneself unstained by the world is the perpetual obligation of Christians, allowing for no exception or qualification. Those who belong to God are to be characterized by moral and spiritual purity, by unstained and unblemished holiness. Peter admonishes believers to “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:17b–19).
Neither James nor Peter is speaking of sinless perfection, a human spiritual condition solely manifested by Jesus in His incarnation. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth,” the writer of Ecclesiastes assures us, “who continually does good and who never sins” (Eccles. 7:20). Although Paul could honestly say, “I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1; cf. 24:16), he also confessed, “I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4), and “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Rom. 7:18–19).
Every Christian falls short of the Lord’s standards. Like Paul, we find ourselves doing things we know are wrong and not doing things we know are right (cf. Rom. 7:14–25). Even the most faithful and loving believer does not always show as much compassion as he should, love his fellow believers as he should, or love God as he should. James is speaking of the basic orientation of our lives, of our central commitment and allegiance. If that allegiance is right, then our deepest desire will be to love and care for others and to confess our selfish sin to the Lord when we do not. The genuine Christian cannot be happy or content when he fails to show compassion for others. It is not our perfection that proves our salvation but rather our hating our imperfections and seeking, with God’s help and power, to correct them. In his inmost heart, the genuine Christian longs to speak and do only those things that are holy, pure, loving, honest, truthful, and upright, things that are uncorrupted and unstained by the world.
On the other hand, a person who does not have compassion for others, who is not concerned about living righteously, and whose satisfaction is found in his sin, cannot be a true disciple of Christ and child of God.
Kosmos (world) has the basic meaning of order, arrangement, and sometimes of adornment. In the New Testament it is used figuratively of the earth (see Matt. 13:35; John 21:25) and the universe (see 1 Tim. 6:7; Heb. 4:3; 9:26). But most often it is used to represent fallen mankind in general and its ungodly spiritual systems of philosophy, morals, and values (see John 7:7; 8:23; 14:30; 1 Cor. 2:12; Gal. 4:3; Col. 2:8). That is the sense in which James uses the term in the present text. (See discussion below on 4:4.)
With that meaning of world obviously in mind, John warns, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15–16). Love of God and love of the world and the things of the world are totally incompatible and mutually exclusive. The phrase “the things of the world” does not pertain to such things as participating in business, being involved in social activities, or buying and using the material necessities of life. It is the overriding love of and allegiance to such things that are ungodly and come between men and God.
Godly religion, that is, biblical Christianity, is a matter of holy obedience to God’s Word—reflected, among other ways, by our honesty in regard to ourselves, by our selflessness in regard to the needs of others, and by our uncompromising moral and spiritual stand in regard to the world.
As I lay upon my bed, through my window, in awe and in complete, astonishment I see Your Hand extended to me!
Staring in wonder and in amazement! You spoke these words to me, “See I have you in My Hand and no one can harm you“
Oh how reassuring to be held, in Your Hand! for there is no touch like Your Touch! No other, hand can hold me the way you do!
Then Your word reminds me that, whom You have in Your Hand no one can remove! Keep me then, forever in Your Hand Oh Lord! For Your Right Hand has gotten for me the victory in every area, of my life! In Your Hand is where I want to always be!
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:7-9 NLT
Lord, I know according to Your Word, we have an enemy who wants to rob, kill and destroy our faith and trust in You.
I thank You that what You want to do in our lives is more powerful than what the enemy seeks to do.
Thank You that You are greater than anything or anyone who would come against us.
Father, may Your truth always keep me and my children from Satan’s lies;
may Your light always keep us from his darkness;
may Your wisdom always keep us from his confusion;
may Your peace always keep us from his restlessness;
may Your pathway always keep us from his dead-end road.
Give each one of Your children the grace to cast all our worries and cares upon You, and to not be weighed down with concerns that You never intended for us to carry.
Help us, by Your grace, to stand firm against every scheme of the devil, to be strong and daily growing in our faith and confidence in You, and help us to pray for others with a sincere heart of understanding and love.
After Deborah’s day there came a new affliction upon Israel. The wandering desert tribes of Midian, marauders, plunderers with no definite plans of conquest, had become so numerous that they overflowed all Gilead and central Palestine. The mountain districts of the north and south probably suffered little from them. But the fertile region east of Jordan, the lands of Reuben and Manasseh, as also the western plains peopled by Ephraim and the other central tribes, were laid waste year after year. As each harvest time approached, the Midianites came northward, crossed suddenly over the Jordan in huge numbers, slew all who opposed them, seized on all the grain, destroyed what they could not carry, set the villages afire, and returned heavily laden to their deserts.
For seven years this was repeated. “And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds,” hiding places for themselves and their provisions.
Do you know Christian joy? Do God’s promises give you strength in the midst of life’s challenges? Are you discouraged? Is your life seemingly adrift?
Focusing on the joy of the Lord will help.
Be encouraged by these words from Octavious Winslow:The religion of Christ is the religion of joy. Christ came to take away our sins, to roll off our curse, to unbind our chains, to open our prison house, to cancel our debt; in a word, to give us the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Is this not joy? Where can we find a joy so real, so deep, so pure, so lasting? There is every element of joy—deep, ecstatic, satisfying, sanctifying joy—in the gospel of Christ. The believer in Jesus is essentially a happy man. The child of God is, from necessity, a joyful man. His sins are forgiven, his soul is justified, his person is adopted, his trials are blessings, his conflicts are victories, his death is immortality, his future is a heaven inconceivable, unthought of, untold, and endless blessedness. With such a God, such a Saviour, and such a hope, is he not, ought he not to be a joyful man?
Suggestions for prayer
Ask the LORD to help us focus on the joy of our salvation.
Rev. Peter Vellenga is presently serving as itinerant preacher waiting upon Lord for continued assignment.
New Jersey governor signs bill legalizing abortion up to moment of birth Pro-life groups and religious leaders are slamming the enactment of a New Jersey bill that will legalize abortion up until the moment of birth. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act alongside Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the leadership of the state’s Senate and Assembly and Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson.
URGENT: Maryland National Guard to Distribute Remdesivir to Nursing Home Residents ..On August 9, 2019, when 681 patients had been enrolled, the data and safety monitoring board conducted an interim analysis on data from 499 patients and, on the basis of two observations, recommended terminating random assignment to ZMapp and remdesivir. Remdesivir was pulled from the study due to 53.1% of recipients dying from the drug. Who supported that study? The NIH & NIAID.
As Mysterious And Unexplained Deaths In Young People Rise, It’s Time To Revisit That Greek Word ‘Pharmakeia’ I magine this commercial the next time you turn on your radio or television, “well, it’s winter once again, and time to prepare yourself for ‘heart attack and blood clot season’ by making sure you’re stocked up with…”, wait, what??? Did I just hear the announcer say ‘heart attack and blood clot season’? Yep, you sure did. Certainly you remember that from when you were a kid, right? Just like those long, fuzzy ‘clouds’ that appear in a lattice work pattern over your head have always been there, right? Wrong. But that’s what they’re trying to make you believe. I say pharmakeia, what sayest thou?
LA psychologist: Mask wearers sick with mass formation psychosis On “The Ben Armstrong Show,” Dr. Mark McDonald talked about people who are suffering from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) mass formation psychosis. “I would say the masks were the beginning point and/or the ongoing point of the fear and of the fuel that’s driving this car of terror and psychopathy in our country,” he said.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK “A president shouting that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets whatever he wants is proving exactly why the framers built the Senate to check his power.” —Mitch McConnell
The vaccines should be pulled off the market, they clearly are not solving the problem
(Art Moore – WND) Dr. Peter McCullough – a renowned cardiologist and highly published medical scientist whose confrontation of the government’s COVID-19 policies has drawn more than 40 million views on Joe Rogan’s podcast – told WND in a video interview Thursday night the official pandemic narrative that has been fiercely guarded by establishment media and social-media censors is “completely crumbling.”
That narrative, he said, included “false statements regarding asymptomatic spread, reliance on lockdown and masks – which obviously didn’t work – the suppression of early treatment, the mass promotion of vaccines that failed.”
“And now here we are, almost in complete free fall,” McCullough said, referring to the record number of COVID-19 cases as officials acknowledge the vaccines don’t prevent infection or transmission. View article →
The Republican senator who was called a “moron” by Dr. Anthony Fauci has published unredacted financial disclosures of the nation’s top doctor. The GOP senator is also planning to introduce a bill named after Fauci following a tense exchange on Capitol Hill.
“You have an annual salary in 2020 that was $434,000,” Marshall said of Fauci. “You oversee over $5 billion in federal research grants. As the highest-paid employee in the entire federal government, yes or no: Would you be willing to submit to Congress and the public a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments?”
Fauci responded, “My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so.”
The two men then had a testy exchange debating whether or not Fauci’s financial disclosures are public knowledge. The volatile back-and-forth ended with Fauci being caught on a hot mic demeaning Marshall, “What a moron! Jesus Christ.”
On Friday, Marshall obtained Fauci’s previously unpublished financial disclosures from the National Institutes of Health.
The records show that Fauci — who is the top bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health — and his wife have a combined net worth of $10.4 million.
Fauci will reportedly make approximately $2.5 million as President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor between 2020 and 2024 if he stays on through Biden’s current term.
Fauci, 80, has been in charge of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, and he is currently making $434,312 a year as head of the NIAID.
“Fauci’s records show that he and his wife were paid $13,298 to attend four galas and ceremonies – three of them virtual,” the Daily Mail reported. “The disclosures show Fauci was paid $5,000 to attend a ‘RFK Ripple of Hope’ virtual awards ceremony in December 2020; $1,600 to attend ‘An Evening of Hope’ virtual event in April 2020; and $1,500 to attend a ‘Prepared for Life’ virtual gala in October 2020. He was also reimbursed $5,198 for costs associated with his being awarded federal employee of the year and being given the Service to America medal, in October 2020.”
Marshall released a statement that reads, “Since the disclosures were not public, on Wednesday, Senator Marshall sent a letter to Dr. Fauci formally requesting his un-redacted financial disclosures by 5:00 p.m. Friday, January 14th. In response, Dr. Fauci produced these previously unpublished documents.”
Marshall accused Fauci of lying about his financial disclosures being available to the public, and announced that he plans on introducing legislation named after the White House’s chief medical adviser.
Dr. Fauci lied to the American people. He is more concerned with being a media star and posing for the cover of magazines than he is being honest with the American people and holding China accountable for the COVID pandemic that has taken the lives of almost 850 thousand Americans. Just like he has misled the American people about sending taxpayers dollars to Wuhan, China to fund gain-of-function research, about masks, testing, and more, Dr. Fauci was completely dishonest about his financial disclosures being open to the public – it’s no wonder he is the least trusted bureaucrat in America. At the end of the day, Dr. Fauci must be held accountable to all Americans who have been suing and requesting for this information but don’t have the power of a Senate office to ask for it. For these reasons, I will be introducing the FAUCI Act so financial disclosures like these are made public and are easily accessible online to every American.
Marshall’s bill is named the “Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals Act.” The bill claims that records of government officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci are not easily accessible to the public.
The FAUCI Act would require administration officials to provide public access to their financial disclosures on the official Office of Government Ethics website. The bill would also list all confidential filers within the government whose financial disclosures are not public.
Others have previously attempted to obtain Fauci’s financial information.
“I first asked the NIH for Fauci’s disclosure on May 18, 2020 and didn’t receive it until Aug. 5,” wrote Center for Public Integrity reporter Liz Essley Whyte. “The NIH also chose to give the disclosure to me under the Freedom of Information Act, which they didn’t need to do and caused the document to be partially redacted. (Though most of the information about Fauci’s income, gifts and investments in 2019 is still there for all to see.) They did not respond to my questions, then or now, about why they did that.”
In October, Judicial Watch launched a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on behalf of OpenTheBooks.com against the Department of Health and Human Services for the “employment contracts; financial, conflict of interest, and confidentiality disclosure documents; and job description of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., as well as royalties paid to NIH employees by outside entities.”
Forbes reported that the “NIH is holding 1,200 pages of Fauci disclosure information,” and that the “agency will only produce 300 pages per month and not even begin to produce documents until February 1st.”
Sen. Roger Marshall is introducing the FAUCI Act, days after Dr. Anthony Fauci called him a moron.
Fauci made the comment on an apparent hot mic, after Marshall said his financial records weren’t open to the public.
The Act will make it easier for the public to scrutinize these records from officials like Dr. Fauci.
Sen. Roger Marshall said he’s planning to introduce a bill named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, days after the nation’s top COVID-19 expert called him a moron.
Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, told the Hill he’d introduce the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals Act, claiming that records from administrative officials like Fauci cannot be easily acquired by the public.
The Act would force the Office of Government Ethics to provide financial records for Fauci and other administrative officials directly on its website so members of the public can readily access them.
At a Senate hearing earlier this week, the Kansas Republican repeatedly pressed Fauci to disclose his financial records. Forbes previously reported that Fauci, having made $417,608 in 2019, is the highest-paid federal employee.
Fauci, in response to Marshall, said his financial records are already part of the public record. Reporters and members of the public can file a public records request to access them. Liz Essley Whyte, a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, wrote on Twitter that she requested and received Fauci’s 2020 disclosure form.
“What a moron,” Fauci said in an apparent hot mic moment. “Jesus Christ.”
“I don’t understand why you’re asking me that question,” Fauci said. “My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so.”
“All you have to do is ask for it,” Fauci added. “You’re so misinformed, it’s extraordinary.”
Just before Christmas, as the Omicron surge was picking up steam, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients issued a remarkable statement. He began by reassuring “the vaccinated” that “you’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this”, but followed this optimistic bromide with a dose of fire and brimstone: “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”
This rhetoric seemed unlikely to spook any of the vaccine-hesitant into getting jabbed. After all, they have already been exposed to plenty of dire warnings about the virus, and are unlikely to be receptive to the admonitions of an administration they have already ignored. Rather, the real addressees of Zients’s sermon were the vaccinated, who could assure themselves that they are on the side of the good.
Early in the Covid era, many believed the virus had made clear that “we’re all in this together”. The pandemic, we were told, would instil a sense of collective responsibility premised on our biological interconnectedness. Yet the reality, starkly revealed by Zients’s proclamation, is that we have entered a new age of biopolitical balkanisation, evident not only in the drastic policy divergence between red and blue states but also in the latter’s attempts to exclude the unvaccinated from public life.
Zients’s boss, Joe Biden, campaigned on the idea that technocratic competence and faith in expertise would end the pandemic. He also promised to scale back the culture wars of the Trump era. “We can,” he said in his inaugural address, “join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.” This may have been standard political pablum, but it reflected a genuine hope that a less divisive — even pleasantly boring — four years might follow the tumultuous Trump era.
Sick Media Story after story hits the media. Anti-vaxxer dies of COVID. Famous anti-vaxxers die of COVID. QAnon star dies of COVID. And they defend this. Why? “The public has the right to know,” is the kind of garbage they’ll tell you, but the truth is, “The public has the right to know what we want them to know.” So they’ll take great delight in those who die when they die outside the media’s comfort zone, but ignore all those that violate their goals. So you don’t hear about the deaths among the fully vaccinated, the fact that omnicron is a vaccinated pandemic, or any other stories that lead to “misinformation” — that which contradicts the approved narrative. Instead they will gloat over people who die. Shame on them.
Widespread Voter Fraud There was no widespread voter fraud, they assure us, but now it appears to be the plan. New York City has decided to let noncitizens vote. More than 800,000 noncitizens will be able to participate in making the rules, at least for New York. Of course, they’re not the first, but they’re certainly the largest. Fortunately they at least have the requirement that they have been a resident for 30 days. That’s something … right?
Just the Facts, Ma’am Justice Sonia Sotomayor, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the vaccine mandates, made the important observation that “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.” Well, this is certainly horrible … if it’s true. It’s not. The CDC says there have been less than 100,000 admissions of children with COVID since August, 2020. Once again the terror outweighs the facts. And what will our legislators and judges rule from — facts or fear?
Now They Tell Us Have you heard the “latest”? (I put that in quotes because it has actually been around awhile.) Forbes is reporting that studies indicate that the having the common cold can provide some measure of immunity to COVID. Or … you could get injected with an “experimental” (in the sense of “who knows what the long term affects will be?”) vaccine over and over until we’re through it. Yeah, that seems much better.
Make Up My Mind We used to call males who acted “actors” and females who acted “actresses.” They have worked diligently to erase the difference and just call them all “actors,” sometimes with a vengeance. Except, of course, if it’s a guy who identifies as a girl and “becomes the first transactress” to win a Golden Globe. Since “actress” to “actor” was intended as an equalizer, I suppose we’re emphasizing the inequality?
COVID-Related Death In an effort to push and agenda, IKEA has decided to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate or who test positive for COVID. It’s an agenda because vaccinated people are self-isolating and testing positive and get sick pay. And it’s foolish because the natural response will be, “Well, if we can’t get sick pay, we’ll just have to come to work sick.” COVID has killed a lot of people, to be sure, but it’s the death of compassion that concerns me.
Who’s Afraid of Democracy? The story: Biden wants changes to the filibuster rules. The purpose of these changes is to get his way. Filibusters were necessary when the GOP held power in Congress because it was the best way to prevent the majority from running roughshod over the other side, but now the other side wants to run roughshod over the minority, so it has to go. “Democracy over autocracy” they’re saying, but that’s really not it, is it? If it were, they wouldn’t have enacted the filibuster in the first place. (And, considering the power of the LGBT etc. crowd, are we really in favor of a majority ruling the minority?) Maybe they should just put it on hold until the GOP regains some ground; I’m sure they’ll want it back again.
No Longer Free Starting January 15, Washington D.C. will require people to prove they’ve received at least one COVID vax (2, starting next month) to enter businesses ranging from restaurants to sports arenas. “We’re not mandating vaccines; we’re just making sure you won’t survive not getting it.” (And the story includes a hotline for reporting businesses who don’t comply.) We are working hard to change our national image, including deleting that “land of the free, home of the brave” line.
Misinformation? Oregon State University has suggested that certain cannabis compounds might prevent COVID. Is that even legal? No, not the cannabis; the suggestion that something other than the mRNA vaccine might be effective. Pretty sure Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will ban this story too, right?
Just Curious I’m just wondering. Why should we forgive a woman who ran off to join ISIS but not forgive someone who, say, made a questionable racial comment? How does our current cancel culture decide when to burn to the ground or forgive?
The Battle of the Sexes Twenty-two-year-old Lia Thomas is shattering women’s swimming records at the University of Pennsylvania after competing on the men’s team from 2017-2020. No one is clear why this girl-that-used-to-be-a-guy is doing so awesomely now, but she’ll be favored in the upcoming Ivy League championships next month. Oh, and every competition and every record should now have an asterisk attached to indicate “This wasn’t a biological female.” Seems fair to me.
I’ll Bee Back Some good ones from the Bee this week include the promise from Pfizer that their new omicron vaccine will be ready in time for the Q1 earnings report. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are suing the human immune system for patent infringement since natural immunity is cutting into their profits. Sen Roger Marshall suggested that Science may have lied under oath. And they’re saying that AOC has accused the COVID virus of just wanting to date her. (Note: that last link is the real story from which the Bee drew their satirical one, just in case you hadn’t heard it.)
Deborah is the most prominent woman to figure in the Old Testament. She was Israel’s one female “judge.” The honor of being a chief prophetess she shares with Miriam, Moses’ sister; but Miriam’s prophecies are unrecorded, and she was disobedient to God, while Deborah was ever faithful and devoted to her people.
Very high among the poetic passages of the Bible ranks the “song” with which she proclaimed her joy at the great victory of Barak. For twenty years had she, the “mother in Israel,” watched in silence, enduring at heart every pang inflicted on every one of all the downtrodden. Now the tyrant was overthrown. With Sisera and his army gone, Barak attacked and easily destroyed the king of Hazor. Then he joined with Deborah, and doubtless all the people joined also, in her chant of triumph.
The song is full of the power of God, of praise of the river Kishon, “that ancient river” which had swept away the enemy. The verses taunt the timorous tribes of Israel which had failed to join with Barak. The people’s former misery is described; and the poem closes in savage, barbaric exultation over the mother of Sisera, waiting for her son, watching in vain at her window lattice.
A person of conviction has become convinced, by either evidence or argument, that his beliefs are true. Today, most men and women would rather live by preference than conviction. They choose to believe something based on certain conditions and circumstances. When the situation changes, so does their loyalty. In other words, a lot of people vacillate on issues that require a firm resolve.
Contrast this wishy-washy approach with the mindset of the great men and women of Scripture. Despite many years of unfair treatment, Joseph never wavered in his commitment to godly principles. As a result, he was in the right place at the right time to ensure Israel’s survival (Gen. 50:20). Daniel, another righteous man in an idolatrous land, earned the trust of foreign kings by standing firm in his beliefs (Dan. 1:20). When his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also refused to compromise their beliefs, they influenced a king to recognize Jehovah as the one true God (3:29).
As these biblical heroes show, godly convictions can withstand the changing winds of opinion and the persuasive arguments of opponents. If we are grounded in the Word and trust what God has said, we can stand firm in our beliefs. Confidence breeds the courage to remain strong amid conflict.
Instead of following your own preferences, choose to live by godly conviction. The Bible has much to say about the most important aspects of your life. See if God’s principles and promises hold true. Through prayer and study, allow Him to firmly root you in solid biblical convictions.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.
5:17 To pray constantly does not mean continuous, uninterrupted prayer but humble submission to God in the details of life.
5:17 This frequently misunderstood verse does not mean that one is to be praying every minute, nor does it necessarily call for an individual’s maintaining always an attitude of prayer (cf. Luke 11:1). The verse does insist upon an uninterrupted practice of prayer regarding all matters. As one prays in this manner, the ability to fulfill the command of v. 18 is realized.
5:17Pray without ceasing suggests a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in his presence throughout each day.
5:17 pray. This does not mean pray repetitiously or continuously without a break (cf. Mt 6:7, 8), but rather pray persistently (cf. Lk 11:1–13; 18:1–8) and regularly (cf. Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; Col 4:2, 12).
What does it mean to “pray without ceasing”?
1 Thess. 5:17
What did the apostle Paul mean by “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)? How is it possible to carry on with normal life while praying without a break? First, the apostle did not mean that we should walk around all day mumbling prayers to God. Rather, he taught that we can live in a constant attitude of prayer, even as we go about our daily routines. Of course, on some days we’ll pray much more than on others. But regardless of the particular items on our “to do” list for that day, we can maintain a natural attitude of prayer that encompasses our whole lives. When we develop such a prayerful outlook, prayer becomes our first instinct any time we face a challenge or encounter a difficulty. When we maintain an attitude of prayer, we don’t even have to think about moving from first gear to second, from an attitude of prayer to the practice of prayer. It never occurs to us that we should not pray. Should you pray about trivial matters? Yes! God listens to every prayer. Since He is interested in every aspect of your life, He invites you to pray about whatever concerns you, interests you, confuses you, frightens you, or in any way touches or challenges your life. Prayers to find lost glasses or to mentally retrieve forgotten information are both worthy requests. God has called us to be people of prayer. Regular communication on this level creates intimate fellowship with the Savior. Through prayer we discover the goodness and faithfulness of God. But while taking time to get alone with God is the ideal, we don’t have to limit ourselves to such times. God hears our prayers no matter where we pray. The devotional writer Oswald Chambers encourages us to put “reckless” confidence in God. He says that too often we limit our praying precisely because we do not cast ourselves on His grace and mercy. Will outsiders consider such wild trust in God foolhardy, even madness? Probably. But so what? Only through prayer can we tap into the limitless resources of God. Only by praying can we test the Lord’s promise: “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Prayer is one of the best ways we have to remind ourselves that God is our gracious heavenly Father and that we are His much-loved children.
5:17 Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to maintain a faithful prayer life like his own (1:2, 3; 2:13; Rom. 1:9, 10; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:3). Praying without ceasing does not mean praying constantly, but being persistent and consistent in prayer.
5:17. Second, believers are commanded to pray without ceasing. The word translated without ceasing means “regularly,” or “all throughout your day.” Believers must not limit their communication with God to particular times, but must pray to God every day of the week, and all through each day.
This obviously does not mean that they are to do nothing but pray. It means that a spirit of prayer should go with them all day long, as they constantly recognize their dependence on Him. And throughout the day they actually do offer up prayers.
5:17 Prayer should be the constant attitude of the Christian—not that he abandons his regular duties and gives himself wholly to prayer. He prays at certain regular times; he also prays extemporaneously as need arises; and he enjoys continual communion with the Lord by prayer.
5:17. Continual prayer is not prayer that prevails without any interruption, but prayer that continues whenever possible. The adverb for continually (adialeiptōs, also in 1:3) was used in Greek of a hacking cough. Paul was speaking of maintaining continuous fellowship with God as much as possible in the midst of daily living in which concentration is frequently broken.
5:17. The next staccato note follows: pray continually. This means never stop praying. Paul was a busy missionary, and he wrote about the Christian’s duty to fulfill daily responsibilities, so this is not a command about speaking non-stop prayers. It refers, however, to the attitude of prayer, or reverence before God. The Christian’s life of righteousness and his approach to relationships and responsibilities should be such that he maintains a constant attitude of being in God’s presence. Such a person will pray often and about many things, including requests, praise, and thanksgiving. This command also means that we should never quit praying.
5:17 “pray without ceasing” Another PRESENT MIDDLE (deponent) IMPERATIVE, this must refer to lifestyle prayer, a moment by moment fellowship with God (cf. 1:3; 2:13). Paul sensed a need for prayer and believed it affected his ministry (cf. v. 25; Eph. 6:18–19; 2 Thess. 3:1).
17 The injunction to continual prayer (cf. Luke 18:1; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18) springs out of the same great idea as that to continual rejoicing. Christianity is a religion that turns people’s thoughts away from themselves and their puny deeds to the great God who has wrought a stupendous salvation for them in Christ. It is of the very essence of the faith that it insists on the inability of sinners to bring about their salvation, either in the sense of the initial act whereby they enter a state of salvation, or in the sense of the day-by-day living out of the Christian life. For the putting away of their sins the atonement wrought by the Son of God is necessary. For the living of the dedicated life the power of the indwelling Spirit alone suffices. All along the way they experience their own insufficiency. Paul’s exhortation to continual prayer fits into this picture. The Thessalonian believers (like all others) were dependent on God for everything. Continuing prayer is the continuing expression of this dependence.
Christians, then, are always conscious that they depend on God, and that they are always surrounded by God’s love. Therefore, although they are not able to achieve anything worthwhile in their own strength, they have all that they need. This knowledge will keep them always rejoicing. Why should they be otherwise? And it will keep them always in the spirit of prayer. Prayer and rejoicing are closely related, for often believers find in prayer the means of removing that which was the barrier to their joy. Prayer is not to be thought of only as offering petitions in set words. Prayer is fellowship with God. Prayer is the realization of the presence of our Father. Though it is quite impossible for us always to be uttering the words of prayer, it is possible and necessary that we should always be living in the spirit of prayer.
But believers who live in this way, conscious continually of their dependence on God, conscious of his presence with them always, find that their general spirit of prayerfulness in the most natural way overflows into uttered prayer. Again and again in Paul’s letters (and especially in these two letters to the Thessalonians) the apostle interjects little prayers into his argument. Prayer was as natural to Paul as breathing. At any time he was likely to break off his argument or to sum it up by a prayer. In the same way he looks for the Thessalonians to live lives with such an attitude of dependence on God that they will easily and naturally move into the words of prayer on all sorts of occasions, great and small, grave and festive. Prayer is to be constant. This does not, of course, mean that they are to spend all their time in uttering words of prayer; throughout these letters there are too many exhortations to be active in daily affairs for that to be accepted. Paul is arguing for lives lived constantly in a prayerful spirit.
17 Intimately related to constant joy is incessant prayer—the only way to cultivate a joyful attitude in times of trial. Uninterrupted communication with God keeps temporal and spiritual values in balance. Adialeiptōs (GK 90, “continually”; cf. Ro 1:9; 1 Th 1:2–3; 2:13) does not mean some sort of formal, nonstop praying. Rather, it implies constantly recurring prayer growing out of a settled attitude of dependence on God. Whether words are uttered or not, lifting the heart to God while occupied with miscellaneous duties is the vital thing. Verbalized prayer will be spontaneous and will punctuate one’s daily schedule, as it does Paul’s writings (3:11–13; 2 Th 2:16–17).
The Exhortation to Constant Prayerfulness
pray without ceasing; (5:17)
Joyful believers will also be prayerful believers. Those who live their Christian lives in joyful dependency on God will continually recognize their own insufficiency and therefore constantly be in an attitude of prayer. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing is thus a divine mandate to all believers. Pray is from proseuchomai, the most common New Testament word for prayer (e.g., Matt. 6:5–6; Mark 11:24; Luke 5:16; 11:1–2; Acts 10:9; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 14:13–15; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:9; 2 Thess. 3:1; James 5:13–14, 16). It encompasses all the aspects of prayer: submission, confession, petition, intercession, praise, and thanksgiving. Without ceasing means “constant” and defines prayer not as some perpetual activity of kneeling and interceding but as a way of life marked by a continual attitude of prayer.
One cannot begin to understand Paul’s command to continual prayerfulness without considering how faithfully Jesus prayed during His earthly ministry. As the Son of God, He was in constant communion with the Father, and the Gospels provide many examples of the Lord’s consistent prayer life (Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 9:18, 28–29; cf. John 6:15; 17:1–26). During times when He went to the Mount of Olives to pray all night (Luke 21:37–38; John 8:1–2) He undoubtedly prayed with a kind of intensity that believers know little or nothing about. The classic example of such intensity is when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray.… And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:41, 44). Matthew 26:38–46 records that Jesus’ prayer in the garden was a prolonged experience in which He pleaded three times for the Father to spare Him from “this cup” (v. 39)—the divine wrath against sin, which He would have to bear the next day in His substitutionary death on the cross for sinners. (For a complete exposition of this passage, see Matthew 24–28, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1989], 167–78.) That level of intense agonizing is beyond anything Christians have to face, but it illustrates the persistence Jesus spoke of in the parables of the friend in need (Luke 11:5–10) and the relentless widow (Luke 18:1–8). It also uniquely exemplifies what the apostle Paul meant when he instructed the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing.
From its inception, the early church demonstrated a Christlike earnestness and constancy in its prayer life. Luke wrote how devoted Christ’s followers were to prayer, even before the Day of Pentecost: “These all [the apostles] with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14). Later they gave themselves regularly to prayer (Acts 2:42). In their role as leaders of the young church, the apostles determined to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Also, diligent prayer by believers played a part in Peter’s release from prison (Acts 12:11–16; cf. 4:23–31).
The New Testament emphasis on the importance of prayer cannot be overstated. Already in 1 Thessalonians, Paul had written, “As we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face” (3:10). Many of Paul’s other epistles also indicate the importance of prayer (Rom. 12:12; 1 Cor. 7:5; Eph. 6:18–19; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 2 Thess. 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:8).
The strong scriptural emphasis on prayer suggests a substantial list of motivations for Christians to pray without ceasing. First of all—and the highest of all motives for believers—is their desire to glorify the Lord. Jesus taught the disciples in His model prayer, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ ” (Matt. 6:9–10; cf. Dan. 9:4–19). Second, the desire for fellowship with God motivates believers to pray: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1–2; cf. 27:1, 4; 63:1–2; 84:1–2). Jesus said believers’ prayers would be answered in order that “the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13; cf. v. 14).
Third, believers will pray for God to meet their needs: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11; cf. Luke 11:9–13; 1 John 5:14–15). Fourth, Christians will pray persistently for God’s wisdom as they live in the midst of a sinful world: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5; cf. Matt. 6:13; 1 Cor. 10:13). Fifth, the desire for deliverance from trouble motivates prayer. Jonah is a vivid example of such motivation: “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice’ ” (Jonah 2:1–2; cf. Ps. 20:1).
Sixth, all Christians desire relief from fear and worry. Paul encouraged the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7; cf. Ps. 4:1). A seventh motive is gratitude for past blessings, as the psalmist prayed:
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations; then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, then You spread them abroad. For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them. You are my King, O God. (Ps. 44:1–4a; cf. Phil. 1:3–5)
Eighth, believers pray to be freed from the guilt of sin. David expressed this when he wrote, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5; cf. Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Ninth, believers’ concern for salvation of the lost causes them to pray. Paul captured this motivation in his words to Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1–4; cf. Matt. 9:37–38; Rom. 10:1)
Finally, and certainly as important as any of the motivations for Christians to pray without ceasing, is their desire for spiritual growth—for themselves and for fellow believers. Paul’s petition to the Lord for the Ephesians is a model in this regard:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:14–21; cf. 1:15–19; Col. 1:9–12)
 Davis, J. F. (2017). 1 Thessalonians. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1908). Holman Bible Publishers.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J., eds. (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., 1 Th 5:17). Thomas Nelson.