If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)
A common criticism of Christians is that they don’t practise what they preach. At times this is fair criticism, at other times it totally ignores the many good things being done by Christians. Related to this criticism is the concern that Christians make all sorts of public statements about what is wrong in the world but do not always offer a model of how it can be put right.
If we are merely known for our words, we are failing. We are not to just talk about goodness but practise it. And we are to even be careful about how we talk. If what we say and how we say it is misguided, we dig ourselves an even deeper hole.
Texts like this remind us that true Christianity is faith in action. It avoids careless or hateful speech. It seeks to do good to the most vulnerable people in society rather than getting onside with politicians in order to swing votes or gain power. We identify with those on the fringes not with those at the centre of things.
With one proviso: we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty in the mess of the world without that adopting the values and methods of that messy world. While we are not to remove ourselves from the world in order to retain some sort of purity, we are not to so engage in the world that our distinctive values are compromised.
We are to change the world for the better and not let it change us for the worse.