What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. -James 1:27 (GNT)
Thank God we are saved by grace and not by our own works, as the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians. There are some legalistic Christians that disagree and try to impart some measure of works into the Gospel message of salvation. To do so, in my opinion, diminishes the finished work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. However, religion certainly has its place in the believer’s life and daily walk with Jesus. The writer of James understood that.
It was not enough for me just to accept Jesus as my savior and leave it at that. I did just that for many years and wasted much time that should have been spent growing and being effective in the service of my Lord. While I regret that wasted time and the loss of happiness that I could have had much sooner, I am blessed to know that God is gracious and gives us more than one chance if we but repent and follow Him. Allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us will produce the practice of effective, fruitful religion.
My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!”—if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead. -James 2:14-17 (GNT)