Purity of Heart

By Scott Kinnaird

James 1:26-27 - 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.

Among many other things, religion is a vehicle used for personal transformation. Simply put, my behavior, as well as the heart and mind influencing my behavior, can be transformed by religion.

But, the Apostle James encourages his readers to discern action from intent. You can follow a religion and all of its rules, but if your speech is mean and you’re not helping the helpless, the religion is worthless.

Therefore, the purity we often seek is in our heart, it has been within us since we were children and truly authentic religious rules and methods will help us reclaim that purity, which was actually never lost.

My favorite example of a pure heart is something I witnessed my son do many years ago when he was in elementary school. Back in those days going home after Sunday church services was quite an operation. As any church-going parent with small children will tell you, finding and gathering young kids can be very hectic.

One Sunday we were in the parking lot before we realized Jack wasn’t with us. I had seen him with some friends and knew where he was, so with more than a little frustration, I went back in the building to get him.

Looking through the front doors of the building I could see Jack helping an elderly man using a walker. Jack had stopped to open a door for him and the man was thanking him. They were visiting.

Jack had no idea anyone was watching him be so kind. His compassion was pure and from the heart. He had broken some of our rules, but he was practicing what the Apostle James described as “God’s religion” by helping someone in distress, while keeping himself from being polluted by the world.

That Sunday I learned a lesson from my son I’ll never forget and it’s a lesson which bears repeating over-and-over.

As we strive to follow the rules of our religion, let us continue to remember the point of our methods - to help the helpless with intention borne from the purity of our heart.

God, please help us maintain a pure heart to speak kind words and help people selflessly. Keep us from worshiping religion like an idol and help us realize the true purpose of your religion - helping the distressed and not letting the world’s pollution hinder us from that work. Amen.

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