Daily Devotional

James 1:26

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless."

A verse like this is one of the reasons I really like James; he gives it to us straight. James doesn’t sugarcoat it; he flat out says that if your faith doesn’t work then it’s worthless. We can do “religious” things and go through the right motions, but do we actually have faith? Do we actually have a working faith? Because if we don’t then we’re just fooling ourselves.

Have you ever heard of Joshua Abraham Norton? I’m guessing you haven’t, but he was the first (and only) Emperor of the United States. Well, to be more accurate, in 1859 he proclaimed himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States. It’s a pretty impressive title (even if it was made up) but it wasn’t enough for Emperor Norton. In 1863 he added “Protector of Mexico” for good measure.
Edward Norton was initially a businessman who had lost his entire fortune. For some reason, the next logical step to Edward seemed to be to declare himself Emperor. He lived in San Francisco and the people largely played along and let him pretend to be Emperor. He even had his own money printed!

Here’s the thing…Edward was never the Emperor of the United States or the Protector of Mexico. He didn’t fool anyone except maybe himself. Edward acted like an Emperor, but it didn’t make it true. In the same way, we can act like we have faith in Jesus, but just declaring something doesn’t make it so. If our “faith” is just an external show and not a genuine change of the heart, then we’re only fooling ourselves.

James says that one mark of a transformed heart is transformed speech. Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” What’s inside our hearts will eventually bubble up to the surface. The state of our speech can often show the state of our heart. Is our speech impure? Are our words often judgmental or critical? Is our speech filled with anger? What about complaints? Do we often gossip? It’s not to say that Christians never struggle with such types of speech, but how do we respond when we do? Do we go on acting like everything is fine or do we address the issue?

Our faith is more than just surface level; it’s more than just actions. Actions are absolutely important (look back at verse 22 for a reminder about that) BUT the actions have to come from the right place; a heart that has been transformed through faith in Jesus Christ. A transformed heart will lead to many things, one of those things being transformed speech.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.