Undefiled religion

Undefiled religion

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27

Isaiah 1:17-18

 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.

 18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

The coronavirus wreaked havoc on planet Earth. It has been a tragedy for all Americans. But there’s also been a crisis within the crisis in America’s nursing homes as a result of COVID-19. About 100,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities died in 2020 in just 9 months. Many families lost their parents and other older loved ones. Due to quickly established regulations, such as shelter-in-place, those who died, died alone without the care, company, and comfort of their loved ones. Those that longed to be with them in their final days and moments were also devastated. Their grief was compounded by the lack of physical proximity, solace, and closure.

One statistic stands out. Residents of long-term care facilities constitute less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet 43% of all COVID-19 deaths through June occurred in those places (AARP Bulletin, December 2020). This catastrophe exposed fundamental flaws in how we care for our oldest loved ones.

Helping the needy is close to the Father’s heart. It expresses His nature and character. The Father longs for every child of the King to have a heart like His own. Caring for the needy is the essence of undefiled worship.


Each child of the King has a God-given responsibility to those in need.  “Do a little more than you’re paid to. Give a little more than you have to. Try a little harder than you want to. Aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family, and friends” (Art Linkletter).

Father give me a heart that truly wants to look out for and care for those in need.


Each child of the King is to demonstrate the reality of their undefiled religion by putting spiritual truth into action. True religion, the inward transformation of the human heart by faith in the Lord Jesus, is characterized by love for others, particularly those most in need: orphans and widows. Why are orphans and widows mentioned? “‘Orphans and widows’ were the most helpless people in Jewish society, their ‘distress’ (literally ‘pressure’) coming from their desperate need of food and clothing” (Hughes). The neediest are in a helpless state and are representative of those who are truly poor and vulnerable. Caring for the poor and those in need is the crux of undefiled religion.

This was the clearly stated mission of the Lord Jesus Christ

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.

We are never more like the Lord Jesus Christ than when we do what He has done!  “Genuine religion is a life-changing force. One’s religion, then, should be more than external; it must spring from an inner spiritual reality that expresses itself in love to others and holiness before God” (Burdick).

The apostle John expounds the same principle in unforgettable potent, piercing words.

1 John 3:17-18 

 17 If someone has the world’s goods to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted by the world.

The Greek term translated visit is episkeptesthai. Episkeptesthai is derived from epíupon and skeptomaito look. It expresses the sense to look after, take care of, tend, comfort, be concerned about, or nurse the sick (Matthew 25:36, 43). The noun form of this term is episkopos. It is translated guardian, overseer, or elder. It refers to one who watches over and cares for the welfare of others (1 Peter 2:25).

The word visiting means “look in on; to go see.” It does not mean to pay a social call but to meet physical needs. It is the old Jewish usage that means to visit to care for and supply the needs of those visited (Fruchtenbaum).

The Greek term translated trouble or distress is thlipsis. Thlipsiscomes from the Greek verb thlibo – to crush, press, compress, or squeeze. In several languages “trouble and suffering” may be expressed as “that which causes pain” (UBS).

What James is asking us to do is not merely care about the poor or give to the poor. It involves much more than that. It transcends empathy. We are not to merely “feel their pain.” We are to “meet their needs.” Simply being tenderhearted does not work unless we take action to alleviate them.

How tragic it is when we cannot meet the needs and care for those we love.


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