People read Jesus' parables in different ways. Some single out and identify every detail as a teaching point. Some draw them to a common focus of “preaching the gospel” or bringing people to salvation. Some discuss the possible omission of details that are lost or left incomplete in the writing down after the telling.
From childhood, my family taught me that responsible choices shape a life for good. Experience taught me the challenges that result from combining the ideas of responsibility and choice. Within the Gospel of Luke, today's parable follows the story of a prodigal son who threw away his family inheritance – both money and standards – but found new life in his father's forgiveness.
Every week, in my mailbox and on my television, there appear invitations to seminars about financial security, investing for the future and planning for the golden years. I know there were no IRAs, Edward Jones, or Social Security in Jesus' day, but how am I to interpret Jesus' words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal” (v. 19)?
James is a book about necessities. Our modern bookshelves are crowded with books about money management and investments, career success, strategic planning, beauty secrets and diets and exercise programs promising health and longevity. But what about the inner person, the spiritual, the connection with God?
Someone told me when I was young, “Be careful what you say, because your words can come back to hurt you and once said they can't be erased.” It is inevitable that James, teaching about the significance and power of living a Christian life, includes “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits” (v. 5)
James the brother of Jesus, sometimes called “James the Just,” was one of the first leaders in the Jerusalem church, who urged the inclusion of non-Jews in that congregation. His letter is written in a practical voice, calling for consistent Christian living in a world that entices us with easy answers and goals of personal success. Being the people of God requires focusing on living each day with an eye on the future God has prepared.