If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.~ James 1:26 – 27
Religion is often referred to as a bad thing by some Christians, but according to the Bible, religion, in and of itself is not bad. In the text above, James speaks of religion that is in vain, in contrast to pure religion which is undefiled before God the Father.
In the New Testament, the word religion comes from the Greek word, thrace-ki’-ah, and means “ceremonial observance.” It is used by Paul in Acts 26:5 in context to his lifestyle as a Pharisee before his conversion to Christ. In Galatians 1:13-14 Paul uses it again in the same manner, referring to it as “the Jews religion.”
Religion, or ceremonial observance, is actually a good thing when centered on Christ because it provides spiritual structure and discipline to our lives.
In the gospel of Luke we read that Jesus had a custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath: And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. ~ Luke 4:16
A custom is a tradition, and according to Luke, Jesus had a tradition of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. We also read where Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to hold on to the traditions he had taught them: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15
The tradition which Paul speaks of here was obviously a good tradition. Yet the Bible also speaks of tradition that we should not follow. For example, Paul speaks of the tradition of men in contrast to the gospel of Jesus Christ: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. ~ Colossians 2:8
Tradition can be good or it can be bad. Religion can be good or it can be vain. As Christians we need to be careful not to throw out the good with the bad.
Religion and tradition are good things when they serve the purpose of glorifying God!