In our message series this week, we consider the problem of setting and keeping priorities. During his earthly life, Jesus repeatedly taught his followers that the kingdom of God must come first over other worldly concerns, especially money.
“No servant can serve two masters,” he warns on one occasion. “He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve [both] God and money” (Luke 16:13). Likewise, “to gain the whole world but forfeit [one’s] life” by focusing on the wrong things is a losing proposition (Mark 8:36). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” Jesus also admonishes his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. “But store up treasures in heaven . . . .” (Matthew 6:20).
Priorities clearly were important to Christ, who preached that material possessions and worldly concerns must yield to God and the eternal things of heaven. So, it’s a little surprising when Saint James seems to suggest the opposite in the second reading today. It’s “the necessities of the body,” he writes, that take precedence over a mere blessing spoken in faith. “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ . . . what good is it?” (Jas. 2:15-16).
The usual priorities seem to be reversed when it comes to those who suffer want. We are not to worry about our lives or what we will eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:25), but when it comes to the poor and vulnerable, the needs of the body prevail. When you stop to think about it, however, the priorities really are the same. For ourselves, we trust in God. For the needs of others, God trusts in us.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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