Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 8
If anyone thinks himself to be devout—not bridling his tongue, but rather deceiving his heart—the devotion of this one is vain. Devotion pure and undefiled with the God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their oppression, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:26-27, mjlt)
If you were truly devoted to God—if you were devout—how would you conduct yourself? What would you do? What does that mean? Does it mean that you would spend an hour each morning at dawn reading your Bible, praying, listening to music, and sipping Starbucks? Does it mean that you would be religious—regularly attending worship services, reciting the prayers or affirmations, and embracing the rituals, accoutrements and calendar of the established traditions?
But what if devotion is deeper than that? Simpler? What if true devotion has nothing to do with religion or “devotions” at all, but is instead about being consumed with God in every single thought, word and action?
“If anyone thinks himself to be devout,” he may want to think again. Devotion is not something that God simply credits to our account just because we have reduced our walk with Him to manageable, repetitive religious habit. Rather, by nature, it is supposed to be dynamic, spontaneous and responsive in any given situation. Devotion is the intersection between our daily lives and the degree to which we welcome God to rule it. It is an accurate reflection of how we are really relating to Yeshua—right now.
For example, when everything we have to say is negative and critical and prideful, or we speak out harshly in anger or frustration, or we simply run off at the mouth, saying whatever unfiltered thought that pops in our head, we are “not bridling [our] tongue, but rather deceiving [our] heart,” demonstrating without doubt how truly undevoted we are to God. On the contrary, this shows how dedicated we are to ourselves—our own mind and thoughts—and how devoid our spirit is of divine and Scriptural influence.
So whether we are deficient in our words and attitudes toward others, or we speak and act insensitively or selfishly in our relationships, or we automatically follow our fleshly instincts whenever we feel desire, or we give in to our emotions rather than seeking the mind of God, or we ignore or fail to consult the Scriptures when faced with choices and decisions, or we neglect to proclaim the Messiah in our everyday encounters—or especially when our daily interaction with God is rote and vague and trivial and lifeless—“the devotion of this one is vain.”
When God is not sufficiently invited into our normal, ordinary daily lives—and we are not sufficiently engaged with Him in it—no amount of compartmentalized prayer, Bible study, praise, worship, congregational attendance, tradition or ritual will amount to “devotion pure and undefiled” in the eyes of God. Instead, it is “vain,” empty, useless and worthless. It is devoid of anything that would connect us to God and the world around us in a significantly meaningful way.
Instead, “devotion pure and undefiled with the God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their oppression, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” A defiled, impure devotion is self-pleasing and introverted, pursuing God with self-serving motives, or in obliviousness toward outside causes and needs. But an undefiled, pure devotion is set on pleasing God and meeting the needs of others. It is extroverted—it serves and runs after God with self-sacrificial motives, consciously aware of both the need to act outwardly on behalf of others, as well as the necessity to act inwardly in pursuit of purity and sinlessness.
It’s time to evaluate and reflect upon the quality and kind of our devotion. Does it reveal that we have relegated God to one religious corner of our lives? Or does it reflect the self-sacrificial walk of a slave whose life is consumed with the will of his Master? Don’t deceive your heart any longer; today, make your devotion pure and undefiled.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!