“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this…” (James 1:27)

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). As we understand it, widows and orphans are a symbol of the weak and needy people in every population, including those in the body of Messiah. 

When Yeshua was in Nazareth in the synagogue, He opened the scroll of the book of Isaiah and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18). Yeshua was sent to take care of the humble (poor), the broken, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed, that is, to help the weak people and those who are willing to humble themselves and want to accept Him into their lives. Yeshua always pays attention to the poor, the suffering, the weak and the rejected. And what about us? Did we learn this from Him? He has given us this good example and requires us to follow in His footsteps and behave like Him. After we’ll learn from Him and will become like Him, we will get the peace of mind and be able to help others.Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

In the book of Ezekiel 34 God rebukes the shepherds about their behavior toward the flock: “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost…” (Verse 4). God guides the shepherds how to treat the weak ones: “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick…” (Verse 16).

In almost every congregation there are brothers who are weak in faith, rejected, broken and lonely. God examines us how we treat them and respond to them. Our human nature wants to approach those who are strong, wise, healthy in spirit and mind and accepted in society, but God hates partiality. “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world (in spirit) to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (Jas. 2:1-5).

Already at the beginning of the sermon on the mountain Yeshua speaks of the poor of the spirit – those who are not satisfied with what they are, those who humbly seek His help, those who want more of Him in their spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). And He continues: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt.5:5-7).

Blessed … Blessed … Blessed … We all want to be blessed according to the word of God. But what is required of us, in order to attain the desired blessing? According to the above verses, in order to be blessed we must be humble, hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God (and not ours) and to be merciful to the weak ones. We must support, help, strengthen and host them in our homes (1 Peter 4: 9-10), because when we help, support and strengthen others, we ourselves are strengthened and the Lord blesses us. 

King David testified of himself as a weak person, “But I am poor and sorrowful; Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high” (Psalm 69:29). “But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:5).                                                                

Also, Paul the Great Apostle testified of himself as a weak person, “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:8-10).

If these two important and precious leaders testified of themselves as weak persons, then who are we not to dare to humble ourselves before God (and before men) and declare over ourselves that we are weak and ask Him (or brothers) for help in time of need. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We all need strength, might and also wisdom from God. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” (Jas. 1:5-6). It is not a shame to testify of ourselves as weak persons. In doing so we attest of ourselves that we need God’s help and grace every day and when we ask for it, we are responded by Him, in His time and in His way.

The word of God continues in James 1:27: “…and to keep oneself unspotted from the world“. We can find the best example for it in the book of Daniel. 

Daniel and his companions bravely withstood the experience and temptation of this world and gave honor to God. They serve as role models for us today. Already at the beginning of their way in the kingdom of Babylon, they were tempted to eat the unclean king’s food and refused.

Question: Do we too today, as believers, refuse to “eat” the unclean ‘spiritual food’ that this world offers us through television, the Internet, books, newspapers, magazines, etc.? The unclean things which come from the world, may stand between us and God and keep us away from Him: “Do not love the world or 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, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Later, Daniel’s friends went through a difficult experience. The king built a golden statue and called on all the peoples, nations and tongues, to bow down before him, while listening to pagan music. Daniel’s friends were also ordered to bow down to the golden statue. They preferred to be thrown into the fiery furnace, just so as not to take part in this unclean act (Daniel 3: 17-18). The result: they were thrown into the fiery furnace, but walked free in the fire because only the cables that bound them were burned. And more than that, Yeshua was present with them in the fiery furnace….. 

Question: “Do we also today refuse to bow down to the works of man (even within the body of Messiah)? Refers to works that are not guided by the Holy Spirit and do not align with the word of God (in the right context).”…nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods… (Hos. 14:3).

Today more than ever we need spiritual discernment, to distinguish between the deeds of the flesh and the work of the Holy Spirit. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 5:21-23).

Spiritual discernment is critical in our lives as believers. It helps us to move away from anything unclean that the world offers us, which is against God, even if it is only similar to evil. If we move away from what is similar to evil, we will not be tempted by evil itself.

As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

And to sum up: 

The Lord looks at our attitude towards peoples, and first at our fellow believers and only later, at the mission and work we do for Him. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

The Lord also wants us to stay away from the temptations of the world and not allow them to stand between us and Him. We stay away from them because of our love for Him. (And not because we afraid of Him, as happens in the way of religion).

This is a test, which is rewarded: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12).