When I was younger, the old folk used to say, “You can make your mouth say anything.” They meant until your actions lined up with your words you were a hypocrite, a perpetrator, or a downright liar.
Today, Millennials (ages 24-39) and Gen Z (ages 4-23) say the same thing about today’s church leaders they see preaching and teaching one thing but living something else. Millennials and Gen Z are leaving church because they are looking for authentic relationships with God and each other; not just religious rituals. They hear what you say but see what you do.
Two thousand years ago, James, the brother of Jesus, called out Christians who talked the talk but did not walk the walk. In James 1:26, He said this type of Christian service was worthless:
If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren) (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition [AMPC]).
James also taught that an authentic relationship with God must include service to man. Vertical Christian activity (prayer, praise, meditation on His Word) must be accompanied by horizonal service (clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, feeding the hungry). James’ calls what the Millennials and Gen Z are looking for “pure religion.”
External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world (James 1:27, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition [AMPC]).
“An unknown author captured eloquently the way in which we so religiously fall short of Christ’s demand of service for others:
I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God.
But I’m still very hungry and lonely and cold” (https://www.preceptaustin.org/ james_126-27).
To be the church God has called us to be we must not only practice what we preach by serving others with a sincere heart, but we must do both while keeping ourselves “unspotted and uncontaminated from the world” (James 1:27). Jesus is our example. He taught, delivered, healed, and ate with sinners so often he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a law breaker (Luke 13:10-17), and used by the devil (Luke 11:14-26). Jesus kept on praying to the Heavenly Father, kept on serving mankind, and never allowed himself to become conformed to this world (Hebrews 4:15).
James 1:26-27 is clear: commune with God, serve man, and do not imitate the wicked ways of this world.
What stood out for you in these two revelatory verses? Share with us. Join the conversation.