Keep Oneself Unstained

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. —James 1:27 ESV

Have you ever had a hard time keeping track of something like your phone, your books, maybe a wallet or keys? It’s really important that we keep track of things that matter the most. James says that we need to “keep ourselves unstained from the world.” This is a present active command. It means that we need “to keep on keeping ourselves.” Imagine someone telling you, "If you want to drive your car, you will need to keep track of your keys." The person doesn’t mean you only need to know where they are right now but also on an ongoing basis.

James says for Christians to live holy and pure lives, they need to keep on keeping oneself up. Specifically, James says we need to keep ourselves from being stained or spotted from the world. James terms need some explanation,

By being stained, James means committing sinful, wrong behaviors or actions. When Christians participate in any sin, they dirty themselves, they stain their spiritual lives. We must remember that Christ clothes us in garments of righteousness, He took our dirty sinful clothes when we placed our faith in Christ and gave us robes of righteousness (Is. 61:10, Job 29:14, Eph. 4:23, Col. 3:10).

He expects that we maintain them, take care of them, keep them clean. He knows that we will mess up, and He promises to wash away the stains with His grace again and again, but this doesn’t mean we can just go and get ourselves dirty by sinning and staining ourselves. Jesus knows that it is hard to stay clean in this world. Jesus said that we should be different, we should stand out to others in the world (John 15:19, Matt. 5:16).

James's term world means the unbelievers within society. James urges Christians to be very careful not to be negatively influenced or led astray to dishonor God and defame the name of Christ and His church. When James says, “To keep oneself unstained from the world,” he knows this is a hard job! But it’s crucial. It is the only way we can really minister to others in the world effectively. God loves the world too much to give up (John 3:16) just because it is hard! Jesus sent His disciples into the world to share and show His love to the world (John 17:11-16). So James here isn’t saying, "Avoid all people that don’t know Christ," rather he is exhorting us to remain pure and devoted to Christ, not staining His or your reputation with sin.

Read Jude 1:24-25