John in the Gospel story tells Jesus that someone else (besides them!) was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to stop him because this person wasn’t one of them… We hear Jesus reply: “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us…” Jesus clearly warns against this jealousy and intolerance toward others who are not of their “group.” These are timely words, as we find ourselves at this time so embroiled in division and special interests. The good that is done, is good and it doesn’t matter (or shouldn’t matter) who does it—if it is good—it should be supported.
The next section of the Gospel is obvious in its’ direction to us in dealing with our bad parts: cut away the part of us that is sinful; cut away the part of you that leads others to sin. I think this is a dire warning by Him, and the fact that it is coupled with the “us and them” admonition is no accident… Jesus is trying to get us to understand that we must look carefully at how we are led: that boundaries of exclusion should be taken down; that good works by “outsiders” and good “outsiders” should be accepted; that “insiders” who are actually doing unholy works should be expelled or “cut off.” Wow!
St. James this weekend is even scarier! He tells us: “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries… He talks about justice for cheated workers; and about those who live in luxury and pleasure—that judgment will come to those who store up the wrong treasure for the last days. It is a dire warning regarding ownership: wealth rots; clothes molder; gold and silver corrodes. Remember the old saying: “You can’t take it with you…” Which “us and them” do you suppose St. James is writing about? I suspect a lot of us…many of us…
We are easily seduced by the perception of ownership; we are told and sold this idea constantly in the media and by the values are society evinces. It would be wiser to think spiritually about “ownership.” Instead of thinking we own the earth, better to think that we are the stewards of creation. Rather than thinking we own the only way to God, we rejoice that God’s Spirit is at work in all of His children. Rather than think we ‘own’ wealth and possessions, talents and abilities we should see these as the gifts and grace of God. Rather than think we ‘own’ positions of leadership in any community (or in any relationship of influence such as medical, parental, governmental, ecclesial): it would be better to understand these are positions of service.
Last week St. James told us that: “...the wisdom from above is first all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” Remember the prayer of Moses today: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit on them all!” These are good words to ponder, and to follow—when storing up true treasure for heaven! There is a lot of food for thought in the readings for this week and a lot to pray about as we consider: our treasure, and who is “us” and who is “them.”
Just a Note: A song about Jesus as treasure…