RSS

Tag Archives: Money

James 5 – Prayers for Mom

I am not one to bury the lead, so I want to actually start with James 5:16 and the power of prayer and talk about wealth at the end.  This chapter was very important to my family when we first found out that Mom was sick.  The doctors had told us that Mom had brain tumors that required brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  I found out some time later that the doctors thought Mom had about six months.  Prayer had always been important to my family, but it took on a whole new role at this point.  Based on James 5, my parents asked the elders at church to come and lay hands on Mom and pray for her healing.  It was a powerful experience to have that group of men pray for my Mom and my family.  (However, nobody said anything about anointing with oil until Mom afterwards said she wanted to do things exactly as James 5 instructed so the elders actually did it again the next Sunday at church, that time with oil.)  My parents also wrote a note to the church asking that everybody take a moment and confess their sins to God, because James 5 says that Christians should confess their sins to one another so that they could powerfully pray for healing.  I don’t pretend to know exactly how God did or didn’t answer those prayers, but Mom ended up having multiple sclerosis (and not brain cancer) and lived for six more years.  I have a lot of great memories from those years.  I tell you this story because of the heritage of faith and belief in God’s Word that was given to me by my family.  Anytime I read James 5 I am reminded of those important moments in my family’s life when we really did depend on our faith.  I will never forget that my family also called on others to join us in our prayers.  And if you were one of those people who prayed for us then thank you.  You will never know what a blessing to us you were.

The beginning of James 5 is the second half of a conversation James is having about wealth.  At the end of James 4, he writes to merchants who travel from city to city, making their own plans and relying on themselves.  Their confidence and faith is in their own ability to determine the future, which is foolish when only God knows the future.  In chapter 5, it transitions to talking to rich people, which is different from merchants.  This is the nobility, the people who own land and have servants who work the soil.  They have mistreated those who work for them and a guilty of valuing their wealth and possessions over people.  James focuses on how people handle possessions and wealth on several occasions, but this section makes it clear that when wealth causes people to trust in their own ability to determine their future they are in trouble.  When people put their confidence in money, insurance, jobs, retirement funds and don’t put their trust in God, they are in trouble.  When people take advantage of others for personal gain they are in trouble.

On the other hand, Christians should in every area of their lives seek to bring their thoughts, values, and actions into alignment with God’s thoughts, values, and actions.  This includes what we do with our money and our possessions.  It doesn’t mean that you have to be poor or give away everything you have.  What it does mean is that your priorities need to be brought into alignment with God’s priorities and how we handle our money needs to reflect that and be rooted in that.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 28, 2013 in James

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Luke 16 – Shrewd Servant, Money and Inclusion

The Shrewd Servant

Welcome to one of the most difficult to understand parables that Jesus gives us.  Is Jesus commending a servant for abusing his position and taking financial advantage of his master?  I don’t think so.  It appears that the master is already carrying out some underhanded business practices.  Under the law, Jews were not to charge interest on loans, but often got around this by lending in kind, collecting extra commodities (oil and wheat) instead of interest.  If that is the case here then it’s possible the servant was reducing the debts to the original amount owed (the principle), so that the master couldn’t complain to anybody about the reduced amounts.

Even then, if the parable is about money then it’s still confusing at best.  Certainly we can assume that Jesus isn’t commending even somewhat shady financial principles or teaching about handling money.  Instead, we should always assume that when Jesus tells us a parable that includes a master and a servant that the master is God and the servant is Israel.  In this case, Israel has been a poor steward of all that God has entrusted to her and is about to be cast out.  The advice is to those listening, that they can either tighten their grip on control and rules and the law, or they can recognize the need for change in the last minute and take a chance by showing kindness to anybody who will accept it.  To aggressively pursue relationship over strict obedience to procedure is a virtue.

Faithfulness

After that parable are teachings about not serving money and divorce.  Much (and I mean much) can be said regarding these things, especially divorce, but in this context I simply want to say that God’s people were to be faithful.  Faithful in their business and financial dealings.  Faithful to God.  Faithful in marriage.

Rich Man and Lazarus

We all know a Lazarus.  He’s the guy with the cardboard sign.  The lady with the backpack.  It’s the orphan with the stomach bloated by hunger.  In our world we come across Lazarus so often that we can become blind to him.  We make excuses for our behavior and place the responsibility on their behavior.  We say we aren’t rich, but Lazarus would trade lives with us any day.

The story that Jesus tells here is a common one, even in Jesus’ time.  It wasn’t unusual to think that fortunes might be reversed in a future life.  What was unusual in Jesus’ story is that the rich man wasn’t allowed to go back and warn others.  Then, he wasn’t even allowed to send Lazarus back to warn his loved ones.  In this story, the rich man is like the older brother in chapter 15, who would like to keep the poor and the sinners outside, unseen, ignored.  But Jesus is inviting them in.  Jesus takes the standard idea that the poor and broken will be blessed in the distant future and brings that time into the present and makes it the responsibility of all of those who would be his followers.

The rich man and the older brother (Lk 15) wanted to keep the poor and sinful out of sight, out of mind. The shrewd servant threw caution to the wind in order to use land and money however he could to build relationships.  The Pharisees needed to let go of their preconceived ideas of money and self-righteousness and open their arms to people who had neither of those and that they should do it now, not at some distant point in the future.

The chapter ends with a powerful note of foreshadowing, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets then they won’t listen to somebody who rose from the dead.”  Oh how true that would prove to be.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Luke

 

Tags: , , , ,