Bringing the Text to Life

Protecting Your Valuables James 3:13-18

What is "valuable" in life? Is it the wisdom from below (we teach our children the "value of a dollar") or the wisdom from above (values as virtues)? Can we reclaim the word "value" when we attach dollar tags to everything? What people deem as "valuable" today are bargain-basement "values," real "buys," cheap "specials." Christians need to reclaim the spiritual meaning of this word, which once had a moral, not monetary or commercial connotation to it. The valuables we are to protect are listed in James 3:17.

The word "value" has a double meaning in today's increasingly economically influenced language. On the one hand we use "value" to describe items of great worth and desirability either materially (oil, gold, or real estate in Aspen or Beverly Hills) or more philosophically (truth, wisdom, and loyalty).

On the other hand the word "value" now has a pleasing cash-register ring to it. We use the word "value" to describe a deal, a bargain, even "a steal." Increasingly it is this consumerist notion of "value" which is influencing the way in which we use and understand this term.

The noun "value" is a very old English word deriving from Latin valere meaning "to be strong, be of value." The word has meant the "worth" or "worthiness" of someone or something. Not until the 19th century (through the writings of Adam Smith and Karl Marx) did the word "value" convey the "worth" of something in an economic sense. It was then that German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche, unhappy with this...

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