“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. “-{James 1:26}


“All roads lead to Heaven,” is a familiar saying. Indeed there are “many roads to Heaven” another one. Yet Jesus would say otherwise, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. “-{Matt 7:13-14}. “Narrow gate,”  versus the “wide gate” one leads to “life” the other to “destruction.” James has just spoke about self deception to those who are convinced that hearing the Word of God is enough and James corrects them with it is not enough to hear the Word but it must be accompanied and end with being consistent “DOERS” of The Word! This is the difference between the ones who “merely hear” who are self deluded and the effectual doers of His Word. One hears and ends there the other hears and applies!

Here James contrasts religion that is external and false versus that which is inward and genuine. reflected by what has happened in a person’s heart of genuine change.

“Let no man deceive himself”- “present imperative” is a command to stop deceiving yourself! The implication is the person is being self deceived!!

Thinks“-{Dokeo} to suppose, to presume, to be of the opinion. ” Dokeo reflects the subjective mental estimate or opinion about some matter, in this case one’s state of personal “religiosity”. The  present tense pictures this self deceived individual continually forming the opinion that he or she is religious.”-{preceptaustin}

Religious” speaks of a person who is preoccupied with religious observances.

“And yet does not bridle his tongue.” – Spurgeon said that “An unbridled tongue indicates a godless heart… If religion does not salt your tongue, and keep it sweet, it has done nothing for you. If the doctor wants to know the state of your health, he says, “Let me see your tongue;” and there is no better test of the health of the mind than to see what is on the tongue. When it gets furred up with unkind words, when it turns black with blasphemy, when it is spotted with lasciviousness, there is something very bad inside the heart, you may be quite sure of that.”

Jesus says, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.   “-{Matt 12:34}.

The mouth, speech, reveals the content and intent of the heart! It speaks out of what is within!

It does not mean a person’s speech is perfect, for only One was such, but it does mean the one who habitually does not keep his or her tongue under control, their religion, no matter how sincere, and seemingly devoted they are to their religion it is worthless, bogus, false! Their tongue betrays them and reveals their true condition!

” An out-of-control tongue suggests bogus religion, no matter how well one’s devotion is carried out. The true test of a man’s spirituality is not his ability to speak, as we are apt to think, but rather his ability to bridle his tongue. “-{Kent Hughes}


BUT” note the contrast

“Deceives”Deceives (continually) (apatao from apate = deceit, that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence” ” Apatao  means to cause someone to have misleading or erroneous views concerning the truth. The chief sense in the NT is that of ethical enticement (or probably more accurately enticement to unethical thought, words, and deeds), specifically of enticing to sin. The present tense indicates that this individual who persists in his or her failure to control their speech, is an individual who continually deceives their own heart. (cp Jer 17:910Eccl 9:3)”-{preceptaustin}

HEART” here is not referring to the physical organ but the personality, the feelings and emotions it represents much more. it speaks of the “Thinking ” of the person. Jesus says “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”-{Matt 9:4}. The heart is head quarters, the control center of the Thinking, emotions and will, the doing! 

MacArthur commenting on kardia – While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., “He has a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Mt 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Pr 4:23note). In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.” (Drawing Near. Crossway Books)

MacArthur adds that “In most modern cultures, the heart is thought of as the seat of emotions and feelings. But most ancients—Hebrews, Greeks, and many others—considered the heart to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom. The New Testament also uses it in that way. The heart was considered to be the seat of the mind and will, and it could be taught what the brain could never know. Emotions and feelings were associated with the intestines, or bowels.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)”

“THIS MAN’S RELIGION” Speaks of worship of religious service. It is speaking of EXTERNAL actions and PATTERNS of behavior. It is outward but not coming from an inward reality of a relationship with God. Cults all over the world exhibit great fervor and commitment to their religion but no relationship with the one True and living God through the Exclusivity of the LORD Jesus.

WORTHLESS” – (mataios) from maten = groundless, invalid) means vain, empty, devoid of force, nonproductive, useless, dead, fruitless, aimless, of no real or lasting value. This adjective describes an ineffectual attempt to do something or an unsuccessful effort to attain something. Mataios emphasizes aimlessness or the leading to no object or end and thus is used to describe false gods or idols in contrast to the true God.”{preceptaustin}.The word speaks of falling short of God’s standard, useless, worthless, futile, scandalous and foolish.

Barclay – The word translated religion is threskeia, and its meaning is not so much religion as worship in the sense of the outward expression of religion in ritual and liturgy and ceremony. What James is saying is, “The finest ritual and the finest liturgy you can offer to God is service of the poor and personal purity.”

The persons religion is useless, vain, can never please God because they are not in a right relationship with God. and their tongue, uncontrolled tongue reveals their true spiritual condition.

The most dedicated, sincere, committed activity in religious service is futile, useless to God and where the tongue is habitually uncontrolled reveals the reason why! Self deceived!