“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
“Think before you speak” is an axiom that has been handed down for generations, and it is well that it has been because this principle has a firm base in scripture. Exhortations to control the tongue, as well as to exercise self-control in all areas of life, abound in both the Old and New Testaments.
James is the New Testament writer who has much to say about the necessity of controlling the tongue. His most aggressive statement has to be the one found in this passage. It is one thing to say that a person is weak in the faith, but to say that his religion is useless takes the situation to an entirely new level.
The lesson is clear. We must think carefully about the impact of our words before we let them fly from our lips. What we say to others can come across to them in ways we never intended. Words can cause hurt, they can cause division, they can cause confusion. But we must weigh our words so that none of these is a problem.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)
At one time, the Ephesian Christians, Gentiles in the flesh, were under a cloak of darkness, ignorant of God’s plan for spiritual enlightenment; but when they obeyed the gospel, they moved into a sphere of light.
Consequently, the Apostle Paul issues a direct command: he says “walk,” meaning “conduct your lives”; and then he says, “as children of light,” meaning they should allow their lives to show they are living in the light of God’s instruction.
This instruction is a terse description of the human condition. Each of us who has obeyed the gospel was, at one time, in spiritual darkness, separated from God; but when we came to the Lord, we stepped into the light of the gospel. Thus, Paul says, we should live our lives in a way that demonstrates that fact.
“Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. … For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen” (1 Corinthians 15:15-16).
Paul has preached vigorously the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Corinthians because false teaching has arisen among them. There are those who said the dead do not rise. In fact, some prominent Jews, the Sadducees, promoted that doctrine, even though some of them had been around when Jesus was resurrected.
The apostle here uses logic in refuting that doctrine, even calling himself a false witness if Jesus had not been raised. If the dead don’t rise, then Jesus could not have been raised; thus, all are still in their sins.
The scriptures are convincing as they affirm the reality of the resurrection. Jesus arose from the dead after His crucifixion; thus, the dead do rise. As a result, it is sobering to realize that we, too, will be resurrected and will receive our final judgment.
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
The Apostle Paul re-emphasizes a significant point Jesus made one day when he was having a discussion with a lawyer: Jesus taught that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is the second of the great commandments.
Love is an outward demonstration of care and concern for others whether they are with us or far away and whether or not they have an immediate need. Our neighbor is anyone, regardless of social standing, position in society, or close ties with us.
Paul takes a broad stroke across human nature here in reiterating the principle Jesus had laid down. This kind of love is mandatory for the follower of Christ, and it is inclusive, including those who do not show love to us as well as those who do.