Today my daughter and I went on a field trip today with our homeschool group to the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid. The video we watched was heartbreaking; my eyes weren’t the only wet ones in the crowd! Even the little ones were taken aback by the absolute joy they saw shining in the eyes of the children who were receiving new shoes on their feet.
We cut off price tags, removed paper stuffing, and used zipties to hold the pairs of shoes together. We sorted them by size and gender. Working together, our group processed four huge boxes full of shoes.
My heart has always had a hole in it when I think of the children in our world without parents. I wish I could take them all into my home! But at least for today, I handled little shoes that will soon go on little feet.
Who will wear the tiny, size 4, bright pink infant girl tennis shoes? I held them in my hands and prayed for that tiny baby girl. What little boy will feel the solid sole of these Nike Air tennis shoes, big-kid size 3? I prayed for him as I removed the paper stuffing and strung a ziptie through the shoelace hole. Cadi stuck notes in some of the shoes. She wrote poems and notes of encouragement. Other kids drew pictures. I mentally tucked kisses inside each shoe. I pray the Lord will spread my kisses and that these children will feel loved.
The Bible verse I immediately thought of is the famous one from James. You’ve probably heard it in the NIV version. Here it is:
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 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. James 1:26-27
Word-crazy me…I just had to dig deep to find out more about what those words mean. What is pure? What is meant by the word religion? What is faultless? Who exactly are orphans and widows, as the original writers saw them? And what does it mean to be polluted by the world?
Ready to dig in? The Word of God has such depth it can’t be anything but supernatural!
I got this information — for free — from Blue Letter Bible online. The Strong’s Concordance uses the King James Version translation, so here are those verses in the KJV:
26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
I’m going to break these verses down to see if I can get a bigger picture.
If any man among you seem to be religious
Religious — threskos, meaning fearing or worshipping God; trembling before God
bridleth not his tongue
bridleth not — chalinagogeo, meaning to guide, hold in check, restrain
but deceiveth his own heart
deceiveth — apatao, meaning to cheat, beguile, deceive
heart — kardia, meaning heart, soul, mind, will, and character
this man’s religion is vain
vain — mataios, meaning devoid of force, truth, success, result, useless, no purpose
The next verse tells us how we make our worship successful and truthful:
Pure — katharos, meaning clean, clear, pure
Religion — threskeia, meaning ceremonial observance, worshiping
and undefiled before God and the Father is this
Undefiled — amiantos, meaning unsoiled, free from deformity or impairment, pure from sin
Father — theos, meaning father, parent, nourisher, protector, upholder
visit — episkeptomai, meaning to look upon or after; to examine with the eyes in order to see how someone is or to help or benefit that person.
the fatherless and widows
fatherless — orphanos, meaning bereft of parents, teacher, guide, or guardian; orphaned.
widows — chera, meaning widow, implying barren, sterile
in their affliction,
affliction — thlipsis, meaning a pressing together, pressure, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress
to keep himself
to keep — tereo, meaning to attend carefully, to guard
unspotted from the world
unspotted — aspilos, meaning spotless, free from censure or vice, unsullied, irreproachable
world — kosmos, meaning the present condition of human affairs in alienation from and opposition to God.
Based on this word study, I see that James 1:26-27 has much to teach me. First, my worship of God is without force, truth, or success, and I cheat my heart, soul, mind, will and character — when I do not hold my speech in check. And second, clean, pure, and unspoiled worship of God my protector happens when I do two things: look after orphans and widows (see how they are doing, help them when they are being pressed, benefit them), and when I carefully keep myself from being polluted (alienated from God) by the world.
How do you keep yourself “unspotted?”