Before James comes around to defining true religion, he has already rebuked mere listening and not doing anything (vv. 22–25), and then he rebukes mere doing without having our inner lives changed (vv. 26–27). In keeping with his emphasis on genuine faith and its consequent good works, James offers three key aspects of pure religion:
1. Restrain our tongues from speaking evil of others,
2. Show practical concern for those in need, and
3. Keep ourselves pure from sin.
What God is looking for is the practical type of godliness which takes a compassionate interest in others and keeps our own life clean, better defined as “acts of grace and a walk of separation”. This happens when both practical love and practical holiness are evident in our lives!