Webster rightly defines religion as: “The service and worship of God.” Nevertheless, true religion should affect all of our life in a positive way. This, however, is not always the case. Paul wrote of some: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16)
James as much as any New Testament writer emphasizes the practical aspect of religion and how it must affect our lives for good. He wrote: “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.” (James 1:26) Then on the positive side he said: “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 1:27)
The root meaning of our English word “religion.” is “to tie back.” (Webster) Thus religion has to do with getting back to God. The Old Testament prophet Micah sums up what is required of man if he is to return to God: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doeth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8)
Paul in his letter to Titus, whom he had left in the island of Crete, wrote, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, ‘The Cretians are alway liars, evil beast, slow bellies.’” (Titus 1:12) He then adds, “This witness is true.” The problem was that the Christians there were falling into some of the same sins characteristic of the people around them.
Christian people always need to be careful that they do not fall into the sins of the nation in which they live. What are some of the great American sins?
- Profanity is certainly one. The taking of God’s name in vain as well as other forms of unacceptable speech is so common in America that we must all beware lest we fall into this bad habit.
- Materialism is another. As a people, Americans seem obsessed with material things: houses, cars, clothes, etc. Money and the things money can buy dominate the lives of many. We must beware that we do not become caught up in the fixation with material prosperity.
- Cares of this world is still another. Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” (Matthew 6:25) Then He adds a few verses later, “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.” (Matthew 6:32). It would certainly be correct to say that after all these things do the American people seek. Let’s be careful that we do not let the cares of this world run and ruin our lives.