This is the second blog on this verse. You can read the first one here.
James 1:27: “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.”
What does it mean to “keep oneself from being polluted by the world”? Does this mean complete social distancing and isolation from everyone? Of course not. It means to be wise about what and who you surround yourself with. A simple example: I am an overeater. If there is food in front of me, I will eat it. Don’t care if I like it or not, if it has calories, it is mine. This is a problem. This is a sin. I know this is an area of weakness in my life, so I avoid buffets. It is that simple. Alcoholics avoid bars, gluttons avoid buffets. This doesn’t mean that I avoid food all together, just situations where I am tempted to overeat.
In this passage, the world refers to the ungodly multitude, those who are hostile and in open rebellious to the plans and purposes of God. How can we keep ourselves from being polluted by the world? First, we need to know the difference between what is holy and what is not. Paul encourages us in holiness in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Focusing on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable turns our attention to the things of God. The opposite of these characteristics is what we are warned about in the world.
Second, we need to know who the world’s agents are and what the world’s agenda is. The world’s agents are Satan and his demons (John 14:30). Those who are lost (don’t know and have not received the forgiving grace found in Jesus Christ) are also agents in this world, doing Satan’s bidding. Those who are saved (God’s children) are also agents in this world, but we are only physically in this world a short time. We are not spiritually in this world, we are merely guests.
The world’s agenda is first for those who are God’s children to become intimate friends with the world and its system. James says later in 4:4- “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” A second agenda item for the world is to get God’s children to love the world instead of God. 1 John 2:15-17- “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” Third, the world wants us to not only love its system, but conform to them. Romans 12:1-2- “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Finally, accepting the world’s agenda means we are condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32- “Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”
So, what are we to do? We are to live in the world, engage the world, but not become of the world. Don’t buy into the flawed world’s systems, be of God’s!! See the world through God’s lens (Bible and Jesus). Seek through grace to live a life of purity and godliness.
Some questions to consider:
-What aspects of the world are you polluted by?
-What or who is the greatest influence in your life?
-How can our life be dominated by the characteristics in Philippians 4:8 and defined by the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)?