In the book of James, the word “religion” is translated from the Greek noun θρησκεία, transliterated threskeia. This word is found only four times in the New Testament, and carries a singlular sense of “worship.” James 1:27 is the only verse which gives a working definition of Biblical religion—or more accurately—worship. It can be broken into two interrelated parts that encompass the whole of the law: (1) loving one’s neighbor, and (2) loving one’s self (Lev 19:18; Jas 2:8).
Firstly, we see God’s care for the helpless taught throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, special care is commanded for orphans and widows within God’s covenant community (Exo 22:22; Deu 24:17). In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that this care is personally received by him—or God himself (Matt 25:31-37).
Secondly, James teaches that true religion also involves “[…] keep[ing] oneself unspotted from the world” (1:27). This command echoes the Royal law of loving one as oneself. For example, Paul teaches that “[…] sexual sins are sins against one’s own body” (1 Cor 6:18). Thus, to be spotted by the world—is to sin against oneself.