Hello Summit family!
It is clear James has a pastor’s heart and that he loves his “flock,” those in Jerusalem and those scattered throughout Asia Minor. His letter has been sent to provide encouragement in the various environments his brothers and sisters now called home. He knew they would need a strong faith in order to thrive in those environments. He also knew they would need wisdom to navigate the various trials they would face. He has been providing various examples of real-life situations as he has discipled his flock from a distance. He ends chapter four with another life example:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will love and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (V. 13-17)
James has been consistently encouraging his reader to be humble before the Lord. He has provided examples of temptations we face that would result in a prideful approach to life. The most recent has been his narrative on judging another brother or sister, which is in essence judging the law…and ultimately, the Lawgiver!
It seems reasonable he would continue developing his theme of humility except in this passage, he has drawn his reader’s attention to the opposite of humbleness – pride. It is defined in these verses as arrogance or boasting. Rather than defaming a brother, James is warning them against talking about themselves from an arrogant point of view. For James, boasting and arrogance is clearly sin.
James is submitting that we are being arrogant when we assume that time is on our side and at our disposal; when we make plans as if our personal ability and our focus on making a profit are the only issues to consider; and when we overlook our frailty, ignoring the fact that even the smallest aspect of our life is in God’s hands. Even with that knowledge, we are prone to boast about what we WILL do without regard to God’s sovereignty over our lives. James submits that is evil.
James includes three aspects of human arrogance/presumptuousness:
First, the presumption that we will continue to live at will. Notice the passage states “today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city, spend a year there…”
The second presumption is that we have complete choice over what we do, we are the masters of our own life: “…spend a year there, carry on business…..”
The third presumption is that we have control over our ability, that we will succeed solely based on our plans: “….we will….carry on business and MAKE MONEY.”
For the “natural” man, these are ordinary conclusions and plans. But that is the point James is making. Should those be the attitudes of someone who has a perfect/complete faith, a person who approaches life with a heavenly wisdom?
Those who have grown in their faith have come to realize that our choices in life are not the only deciding factor; we do not have everything, in ourselves, that is needed to be a success in life. Those with a complete faith have realized that being successful, making money, and doing well are not life’s sole objectives. James has just encouraged his reader to “submit to God” in verse seven. That equates to allowing GOD to serve as the guiding force in EVERY aspect of our lives, what we do today, in the future (if we have a future), our business, our resources, etc.
James then turns his reader’s attention to how they can approach life so that they can guard against being arrogant and boasting (presumptuousness). He provides three healthy conclusions:
First – there is the realization of our ignorance about the future: “Why, You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” He has been referring to someone planning for the next year. But he is reminding them that they do not even know what will happen tomorrow. He is drawing their attention to the fact that they are not in control of their future, God is. Those with a heavenly wisdom will realize that God is in control of their lives.
The book of Psalms confirms God’s control: “In the course of my life, He broke my strength; He cut short my days. So I said: ‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.” Psalm 102: 23-24 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” Psalm 39:4-5
Secondly, James draws the reality of human frailty to the attention of his reader: “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” As awkward as it may be to receive this statement, James is submitting that humans are insubstantial (a mist), transient (appear for a little while) and will not last (then vanishes). Those how have acquired a heavenly wisdom will realize the uncertainty of life requires a urgency to capitalize the opportunity to bring God glory every day.
Thirdly, James submits that we are dependent upon God’s will not ours. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (v15)
Lest his reader thinks James is attempting to discount planning, he quickly moves to what appears to be the heart of the matter: our dependency upon God and HIS will.
We will look at verses 16 and 17 tomorrow. In the meantime, we are challenged to evaluate how we approach the plans we have for our lives. Do we erroneously think (as children of God) that we are in full control of our lives? Do we make our plans based on our self-reliance, our confidence in what WE can do or will do, or do we approach our lives with the humble realization that God is truly in control of everything – EVERYTHING!
Imagine how reaching that conclusion will impact the level of faith a person has and their willingness to submit to God and His will!
Have a great day!