James 5: A Community of Stewards

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Daily devotions often bring surprises. Take James, chapter 5, for example, which I encountered recently as if for the very first time. In verses 13-20, James describes the basics of Christian community. Pray in your suffering, he says. Sing songs of praise. Pray for the sick. Confess your sins and pray to be forgiven. Pray for one another. Bring back those who wander from the truth. And did I mention, pray?

So what does this group behavior have to do with stewardship? The Wesley Bible calls these actions “appropriate to God’s character and purpose,” noting that the integrity of our relationships depends, not upon how we pray, but upon the One to whom we pray. In other words, we are called to express the good news by the way that we live, to “walk our talk,” no matter what our circumstances. Now that’s stewardship!

James reminds us that we learn, grow, and reach out not as lone gospel stewards, but as congregations, as whole communities of Christians in training, practicing new or truer-to-Jesus behavior. So it’s a great thing that as churches we do not depend upon the mechanics of prayer, but upon the all-sufficiency — the sheer grace — of the One to whom we pray!
Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub
Written 5/3/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church

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