James 1:19-27 | Genuine Faith and Authentic Religious Piety

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Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

~James 1:19-27, KJV ~


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Years ago I had interviewed for a position at a restaurant in Bellevue, Washington. At that time, the Manager had said something that piqued my curiosity. She mentioned that if someone said they were an honest person, they were already lying. Curious – because I am sure I have said many times that I’ve considered myself to be an honest individual. At first, there was some confusion as to what she meant. Today – I have come to fully understand, and appreciate, the wisdom in those words. Honesty is a virtue and characteristic. It is not something we speak of ourselves. It is a virtue and value we live out as evidenced of being honest.

In simplistic terms James 1:19-27 describes the obligation of how to live out a genuine faith as a Christian.

Same concept when someone says, I am a Christian. What does that mean? Majority of the time, one says they are one thing and yet their behavior shows who they truly are. It is far better to say that I am a Christian or is it better to live out one’s faith that shows the fruits of being a Christian?

About two years ago, I worked with an agency and one of my co-workers and I were sitting and having a conversation. She mentioned to me how she admired my character and how she can tell how genuine of a Christian I am. It was not something I brag about or say. It came down to the manner of the virtues and characteristics of living my life. To be a Christian is something we do not speak. Being a Christian is living mindful each day of following our Heavenly Father’s plan and desire for our lives.

People are more readily to believe our actions and behaviors than our speech. #Christianliving, #GenuineFaith, #AuthenticReligiousPiety

James spends a few verses teaching us how Genuine faith produces authentic religious piety. He begins by sharing with us how we are to listen and be slow to wrath. He instructs that we are to set aside the disposition of the natural man and replace it with the righteousness of Christ through the message of the Gospel. Third, he teaches that we are to become workers of righteousness and love. James also reflects the importance of bridling our tongue so that we do not defile ourselves. And finally he instructs that our purpose is to visit those who are marginalized and care for their needs.

Genuine faith leads to a sense of religious piety that is to be an authentic experience of the believer. These virtues are characteristic traits of one’s dutiful obligation in how we live out or lives. In simplistic terms James 1:19-27 describes the obligation of how to live out a genuine faith as a Christian.

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Living a Christ-Like Life Bears Righteous Virtue and Truth

During his earthly ministry – Jesus Christ consistently compared faithful living to the fruits of the tree as a means to instruct his disciples on how to live. Today – the scriptures reflect on how we are to align ourselves to live in the manner in which Christ instructed. Before the term Christian even dominated our language. The First Century church simply referred to themselves as living in “The Way“.

In Matthew 7:16-20 we read:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

And Luke 6:43-46 compliments what James is teaching:

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

In Matthew 12:33-37:

Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.  O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

What are these fruits? The Apostle Paul teaches us 9 Characteristics of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

These fruits of the spirit appear to sum up the entire first chapter of James. All of these characteristics operate on the foundation of love. Which are the two great commandments Christ taught in Matthew 22:37-39:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

And how do we show our love toward God? John 14:15 teaches us that if we love Christ, and subsequently our Heavenly Father, we will keep his commandments. 1 John 2:3 says that we know Christ through our dutiful obligation in keeping His commandments. And John 13:34 and 15:12, we are commanded to love one another as Christ loves us.

When we bear the fruit of love all other virtues brings forth that fruit which is the most desirous fruit of all – God’s divine grace and redemption to humanity.

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Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak, Slow to Wrath

Near Tokyo, lived a great Samurai,  already old,  and  now spending his time teaching young people. Despite his age, the legend was that he could defeat any opponent. One afternoon, a warrior, known for his complete lack of scruples, appeared there. This warrior was famous for using techniques of provocation. He hoped that his opponent made the first move. Gifted  with a privileged intelligence to observe the mistakes of the other warriors, he counterattacked with fulminating speed.

The young and impatient warrior had never lost a fight . Knowing the Samurai’s reputation, he had come to defeat him , and increase his own fame. All the students were against the idea, but the wise old Samurai accepted the challenge. They all went to the town square . There, the young man started insulting the old samurai.

He threw a few rocks in his direction, spat in his face, shouted every insult he knew, offending even his ancestors. For hours he did everything to provoke him, but the wise old man remained impassive.  In the late afternoon,  feeling exhausted and humiliated,  the impetuous warrior gave up and withdrew.

Disappointed that the master had accepted so many insults and so many provocations, the students asked : “As you could bear such indignity?  Why not use your sword, even knowing you might lose the fight, instead of showing cowardly and fearful in front of all of us?

If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, whom does the gift belong to ? ” Asked the Samurai.

To whom tried to deliver it,” said one of the disciples.

The same goes for envy, anger and insults”, said the master.

When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to whom carries them . Your inner peace depends solely on you. People can not take away your serenity, only if you allow it.

This simple parable teaches the principle James enlightens us about. Our society is quick to anger and wrath because of being emotionally charged and reactive. Instead, James is teaching a fundamental truth that we are to be emotionally responsive by actively listening. This requires the discipline of mindfulness. Being aware and present without judgment and/or criticism. Despite our prejudices and biased natures. And the reason most of us are quick to anger is because we are quick to speak due to our lack of hearing. This happens in our relationships. It happens when we are operating out of our own lustful desires.

Proverbs 17:28 teaches us that even a fool who remains silent is considered wise. #James1:19-27, #BibleStudy, #BibleCommentary

Responding to the question What does it mean that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19)? Gotquestions answers with this:

Most of us are not naturally quick to listen, but we can train ourselves to be better listeners. Good listening is active. It engages with the speaker. It understands the speaker’s perspective, even if we disagree. When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen to our side. Being quick to listen actually opens the door to greater communication because listening shows respect, and when people feel respected, they are more likely to return that respect and listen to us. It is important for us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. God’s Word always shows us the best way, and when we follow it, we are blessed.

One of the traits of recovery I discuss with my patients is the idea of being emotionally responsive compared to being emotionally reactive. By being responsive, we take the time to be aware of what is being said. Regardless of our own beliefs and values – showing respect and listening to hear what people say makes the difference in how we are going to respond. This is true when we are facing conflicts and disagreements. It is the key element in healthy communication.

We can be slow to hear because we are proud. Because we think we are right, or that we have the most accurate assessment of ourselves. It takes real humility to listen to others, especially when they have a concern, a disagreement, or correction for us.

Mark Altrogge – Are You “Quick to Hear?” 15 Practices of “Good Listeners”

Mark Altrogge shares 15 active listening practices that will help us grow in genuine faith and authentic Christian Living:

  1. View correction as a good thing
  2. Remember the danger of being wise in your own eyes
  3. Consider that it may be really hard for the individual to bring a disagreement or negative observation to you
  4. Determine that you really want to hear and understand their concern
  5. Keep an open mind by waiting until you have fully heard them before deciding whether to disagree or not
  6. Remind yourself that God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud
  7. Remember we all have blindspots
  8. Be slow to defend yourself. Remember, God is perfectly able to defend you
  9. Don’t start formulating a rebuff while the other person is still speaking. That is not listening
  10. Ask questions. Draw them out – clarification and understanding
  11. Don’t write off their concerns because they don’t deliver it perfectly
  12. Even if you feel like most of what they share is inaccurate, there is usually at least a grain of truth worth looking for in any criticism
  13. After someone shares thank them
  14. Even if you don’t yet see what they are saying, tell them you really want to and that you will definitely consider it and pray about it
  15. Ask them to come to you again any time they have concerns or observations in the future

And when we consider the full context of James Chapter 1 we are to consider what James inherent meaning is regarding what we are to be slow to hear:

So when we finally reach James 1:19, having walked through the chapter to that point, we see a few things:

We must be “quick to hear” the word of truth (James 1:18) that declares who God is (James 1:17), who we are (James 1:14-15), and what God is doing in us through trials (James 1:3-4).

We must be “slow to speak” words of criticism about the God (James 1:13) who brings us trials (James 1:2) to make us steadfast (James 1:12), perfect and complete (James 1:4).

We must be “slow to anger” toward the Father of lights (James 1:17), who gives generously (James 1:5), promises assuredly (James 1:12), and transforms us personally (James 1:18).

Context Matters: Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak – Peter Krol

This fits well within our current study of James and Genuine Faith. When we discipline ourselves in being quick to hear God’s correction, slow to speak anything against God, and slow to wrath regarding God’s commandments and instructions – we are essentially moving toward living a more perfect righteous life through faith in Jesus Christ.

We essentially begin to live out or genuine faith with love toward our Heavenly Father through these virtues and disciplines.

And the idea of being swift to hear refers to our readiness, promptness, and speedy move to actively listen for God’s divine direction and counsel.

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Lay Apart All Filthiness and Superfluity of Naughtiness

Our genuine faith in Jesus Christ is tested by how we respond to God’s revealed word and truth. The greatest example of this centers on the interaction Christ had with the Rich Young Ruler:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:16-24, KJV

Here, Christ is calling the young man to walk in faith with Him by giving up what he treasured the most. Like the Rich Young Ruler, we have come to God to seek His direction and guidance. Yet, when he calls us to do something, we tend to turn back and walk away – murmuring. And for many Christians, they are still living in their natural desires and tendencies rather than being transformed by the renewing of their minds (see, Romans 12:1-2).

One of the most interesting studies I have done was on the historicity of Baptism as a sacred ordinance. In these studies, I happened across the Ceremonies of Baptism and Chrism by Cyril of Jerusalem. During this process – Cyril teaches that those who are to be baptized were to:

  • Face the West and renounce Satan and all his works
  • Face the East and make a profession of faith toward God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit
  • Enter the inner chamber from the outer chamber and removes the simple tunic as symbolism of putting off the old man and standing naked as symbolism to the nakedness of Adam and Christ
  • Anointed with oil from head to toe
  • Led toward the place of baptism
  • Immersed thrice – each time making profession of faith to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit
  • Anointed with consecrated oil –
    • Applied to the forehead, Ears, Nostrils, and Breast
  • Clothed in a white robe and bore a lighted taper as the individual passes from the Baptistry into the Church

Today, baptism is not as liturgical and formal as what Cyril writes. It is a simple act of immersion for the remission of sins. Despite modern Christian Baptism – reflecting on the liturgical way symbolizes the nature in which we are to put off the natural man and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.

Moroni 10: 32-33 teaches us this truth:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is His grace sufficient for you, that by His grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy without spot.

The call to salvation and eternal life means we are called to walk in the way that is righteous. We are to put aside our own desires of the flesh. Paul refers to this as being slaves to righteousness in many of his epistles.

D. Edmond Hiebert discusses the unifying theme of the Epistle of James and shares this thought on James 1:21 –

Faith Tested by Its Response to the Word of God (Jas 1:19-27) Since God’s Word is the means of regeneration (Jas 1:18), a right response to the Word is appropriately presented as the initial test of a vital faith. For the believer to accept regeneration through the Word is one thing; to permit the Word to work spiritual maturity in him is another. The necessary response is threefold: eagerness to hear it, restraint on any premature reaction, bridling of any angry rejection (Jas 1:19, 20). Before the Word can have full sway in the believer’s life, he must remove all that hinders its operation (Jas 1:21). Acceptance of the Word must be followed by persistent obedience to the Word (Jas 1:22–27). Hearing must be followed by active obedience; otherwise the hearing is useless (Jas 1:22, 23, 24, 25). But obedience to the Word is more than mere observance of outward forms of “religion” (church attendance, rote prayers, participation in the rites of religion) without the development of inner power to control the tongue (Jas 1:26). True obedience to the Word must reveal itself in beneficent social activity and stimulate personal self-control and purity in separation from worldly contamination (Jas 1:27).

Our initial faith is tested on whether or not we are willing to allow God’s divine truth penetrate and do its work within us to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Genuine faith and authentic religious piety is consistently tested when we are called to walk in obedience to God’s divine will and plan for our lives. If we are not willing to put off the natural man and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of God, then we are not willing to walk in obedience to His instructions.

We are to turn away from our old way of living life. Without this turning away means we are never truly ready to experience God’s sovereign grace and love. And it is sometimes quite painful and heartbreaking. It means we are to turn away from those who may give us false hope and direction. Remove ourselves from those relationships that are not conducive for spiritual growth and maturity. Despite the painstaking movement toward living a spiritual mindful Christian life – we find that Christ’s infinite atonement provides the necessary strength to accomplish this.

James uses an agrarian term to identify how we are to accomplish the laying aside of filthiness and superfluity naughtiness. The term engrafted means we accept the reality of truth and with sincere humility, cultivate that truth to produce genuine spiritual fruit. How is this accomplished?

One of my favorite Book of Mormon Passages is 2 Nephi 31:19-20:

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

When we feast upon the words of Christ we are:

  • Increasing our ability to receive personal revelation
  • Secures and assures us of our identity and strengthens us
  • Helps us minister to others

Psalms 1:1-3 also appears to coincide with what James is teaching us:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

By meditating on God’s word means we take what we hear and apply it to our own lives.

This concept is nothing new to me. Growing up in the Mormon Faith, one of the principles taught is to liken scripture to myself. This comes from another passage in the Book of Mormon – 1 Nephi 19:23-24:

And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.

God’s word is not merely meant to read and provide inspiration. They are not mere stories of faithful men and women. They are to be applied in order to live according to the righteousness of God. This is where genuine faith resides. Our willingness to live according to God’s divine commandments.

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Bridling the Tongue and Christian Authenticity

James continues to teach us the powerful imagery of our manner of speech. Here, we have the image of the headgear with which a horse is governed by the rider. This headgear attaches the reins to the bit that is placed in the horses mouth. A gentle tug on the reins communicates with which direction the rider desires the horse to go. In this symbolism, we are to restrain or curb how we speak.

The type of religion James is referring to is one that is an outward expression and not an inward transformation of the new birth. A true Christian is transformed because of Christ’s infinite atonement and walks according to the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. There is a vast difference between someone who thinks they are a Christian compared to someone who lives Christ-like. And this is revealed through our tongue.

What may betray us? I previously mentioned an interview some years ago with a manager and her statement regarding someone saying they are honest compared to someone behaving honestly. This is where I believe James is directing our attention to. False religiosity is portrayed through false profession of faith and declaration. Meaning, people are quick to say “I am a Christian” until their manner and lifestyle betrays their statement. It comes down to how actions speak great volumes than words do.

Proverbs 4:23-24 teaches us this: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Psalm 141:3: Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Christ himself taught in Mark 7:20-23:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we are not practicing self-control of what we say, how we say it, our words may inevitably betray us.

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Pure Religion Before God – Ministering to the Needs of People

James moves to describe, what I refer to as, the Christian Duty toward those who are less fortunate. Answering the question: What is Pure and Undefiled Religion? Gotquestions provides this response:

The implied contrast in the “pure and undefiled” religion that pleases God is that the worshiper keeps his tongue under control. “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies” (Psalm 34:12–13). But James goes beyond just tongue control and gives examples of the religious acts God is looking for. One is outward-focused: “Look after orphans and widows in their distress.” The other is inward-focused: “Keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). Holy living, coupled with service to others, is the key. Or, as Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31).

The article continues:

“Pure and undefiled religion” happens when believers take care of the less fortunate and strive for personal purity. The right kind of religious practice involves helping those who cannot help themselves (and who cannot pay you back). As Jesus taught, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13–14). The right kind of religious practice also requires a personal commitment to growing in Christian virtue (see 2 Peter 1:5–8).

Marvin J. Asthon shares this insight in his message – Pure Religion:

As we reflect upon actions that do not fit the definition of pure religion, perhaps we should contemplate the nature of this term: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep … unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)
The words are simple, but a basic formula is revealed—namely, help those who are in need, build your life around the gospel of Jesus Christ, and avoid yielding to worldly temptations.

I, personally, wrote a two-part article on this particular topic. Christianity and the Presenting Problem of Poverty in America Today and The Christian Ethical Dilemma and Obligation in How to Alleviate American Poverty. These articles explore two specific missions of the Church. The first being the primary mission of the Church. The second refers to the social mission of the Church. James is referring to the social mission of the Church in that we are to minister to the needs of those within our faith-based communities who are unable to meet those needs themselves.

And considering who the widows and orphans are we do well to remember those who are senior citizens. Those who may no longer have family around to help them. Individuals who are physically feeble in their old age.

Christ told us that we will always have the poor with us. How we choose to minister to their needs (or not) determines whether we are undefiled and unspotted from the world.

Take Away and Call to Action

James opens with admonish to find joy in our trials. He teaches us how to maintain genuine faith in order to gain wisdom. His instructions are for us to free ourselves from the grasp of temptation. His final instruction focuses on:

  • Living according to the words and instructions we receive
  • Engage in self-control and mastery over our speech
  • Engage in ministering to the needs of those who are less fortunate within our community

Genuine faith reveals our authentic religious piety and is based on our love for God and our love for others. We come to understand and walk in the same ministry Christ himself walked. Neither being ashamed of the Gospel message – nor- boastful of our appearance to be religious.

Please share your own personal insights in the comments below. Share this with others. And please feel free to provide a small token of gratitude by making a nominal donation to help support this website. Through your donations and purchases through my affiliate links help maintain this website.

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6 thoughts on “James 1:19-27 | Genuine Faith and Authentic Religious Piety

  1. A profound, extensive post about bridling the tongue. The 15 active listening practices are spot on. The first one took me a long time to understand and apply to my life effectively without allowing shame or condemnation to override what our good Father is doing in my life.
    Thank you for this astounding post on genuine faith which is always through the living word of God. Many blessings to you and your ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara – Thank you for your comment. I have been doing these study devotionals and it is really helping me personally. This post finished up the study and commentary of James Chapter One. Bridling the tongue really is going to be interesting when I get to James 3. Bridling our tongue and passions is definitely a discipline. What we say and how we say it truly matters. Something I have learned working with people who are dealing with mental health and substance use related issues. Especially those who struggle with trauma.

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