One Day At A Time
“You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
Our stewardship series begins today, tying in themes from the final two weeks of the letter of James. This season of stewardship will find us
focusing on important actions to take as we
God’s call: planning, praying, following and giving.
Stewardship Challenge Card Dedication is November 18th!
PRACTICE: Planning for the Future
THOUGHT: How do we plan God’s way?
WORD: James 4:13-5:6
James pulls no punches in this passage. He criticizes those who would confidently make plans about their future with no recognition that it is God who orders our steps and directs our paths. Likewise, he takes to task those who are rich, particularly those who have hoarded riches at the expense of providing fair wages for their workers.
James must have had in mind Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your
treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
The hard thing about these passages is that they seem to run contrary to any “wise” advice about planning for the future. Have you ever noticed how many commercials on TV are for investment companies that want to help “secure” your future for retirement? Is it wrong to plan? Let’s look carefully at what James is trying to say.
DEED: Re-read James 4:13-17. Do you think James is:
- Against planning
- Advocating dependence on God
- Rebuking the rich
What are the four agendas that characterize the lifestyle of the arrogant person in verse 13?
Why does James caution against these agendas? (v. 14)
In addition to Jesus’ cautionary words about storing up treasures on earth as opposed to those in heaven, he did encourage those who would follow him to count the cost of discipleship, using a building metaphor in a positive way to do so:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost,
to see whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)
On digging deeper, we can see that James is not against planning, he is against presumption. In contrast to the arrogant statement in verse 13, how should a Christian think? (v. 15)
Re-read James 5:1-6. Do you think James:
- Is anti-capitalism
- Would be crucified on Wall Street
- Makes me mad!
James is still on the theme of wealth, but now he shows that riches are, indeed, a great burden when seen in eternal terms. Wealth is an illusion. It gives one a false sense of security. Not only that, if it is gained at the expense of the poor, it can deprive them of their lives. So, what is responsible stewardship, in terms of thinking about the source of what we have (remember “every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17), and also thinking about those whose lives we can directly help or hinder?
As we enter our fall stewardship campaign, God shows us a new way of planning for our future. He introduces a paradox, which we have captured in our stewardship theme: “Getting It All By Letting It Go.” Think about a goal or a plan you have. How might God transform your goal or plan into something even better, more abundant, more eternal?
MEMORIZE: James 4:17
Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK:
Dear Lord, this hits awfully close to home.
How do I live in a responsible way and take care of my family, but also trust in you?
Help me keep you in mind in the midst of my plans.
Help me to see my life, my resources, and my time in terms of how you might want to use them. Help me to let go of control, and see what you do in my life when I do so.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen.