“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
Explanation and Commentary on James 1:26
In certain Christian circles, the focus can be on religion rather than relationship. Do we dress like Christians? Do we go to church? Do we sing certain songs? Do we ascribe to certain proper doctrines? Do we even wear Christian T-shirts and listen to only Christian music?
This is all well and good until we are betrayed by our tongue. When we strive so hard to look the part, but cannot keep our tongue in check, we show that all our religion is practically worthless.
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
What will matter to God is what is inside us. What is inside of us will be betrayed by a loose tongue.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of James 1:26
#1 “Those who consider themselves religious…”
James uses the term “religious” here to refer to someone is a faithful Christian. James is saying that if you consider yourself a faithful follower of God, you will have self-control concerning the tongue. It is all well and good to consider yourself faithful, but what matters is how you actually live.
#2 “…and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues…”
What exactly it means to “keep a tight rein on [the] tongue” is worth considering. Is it ok to indulge in evil thoughts in our hearts, but manage to have the ability to keep the mouth shut? Perhaps that is a start, but Jesus constantly draws our attention to the condition of the heart and what is in it that would end up producing words and actions. To begin to rein in the tongue, seek to be transformed by reining in your thinking (Ro 12:2; Phil 4:8).
#3 “…deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
Jesus called the Pharisees, who were righteous in their own eyes, “whitewashed tombs,” clean on the outside, with dead men’s bones on the inside (Mt 23:27). He also said the unclean insides will be betrayed by what comes out of our mouths. Considering ourselves religious is mere self-deception if we are truly corrupt on the inside. And if we are truly corrupt on the inside, it will eventually be proven by our talk. Our religion is proven worthless.
Bible Study on James 1:26
Expert Overview of James
Biblical Translations of James 1:26
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
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.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.