“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 live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
~James 4:13-17 (NIV).
We, of course, must plan our lives, and certainly to that end to live in eternity, and not least of which now, extending until our last breath is taken—of which we don’t know when that is.
Perhaps what James is saying is our plans should always be mindfully prefaced in the coming of the Lord and in the fact of our imminent demise, whichever comes first. Where we do not do this—and it is not generally our custom to bear it continually in mind—we sin; for, the plans we make try to delude God of what is his.
And, still, we are the ones deluding ourselves, and we don’t just do it on a personal or interpersonal scale. We do it organisationally too, for instance, in our church planning or in our mission activities. The secular world, certainly, thrives on it.
We Should Still Plan
Our planning should always be commended to God as being provisional on his bequest of life. We should still plan. But what we shouldn’t do is plan as if there will be no end, for there is a rapid end for every one of us, and that day is steadily approaching. Not that that’s a depressing reality by any means!
If we believe God is good—and he is—then we’ll have faith that he will see us through the good works we do for him now, seeing them through to completion.
Yet, even that is an inexplicable wish of our hearts. Just because we might fall short of the time required to achieve ‘our mission for God’ wouldn’t mean that God is not a good God. We ran our race. We just don’t know the full story, that’s all.
Boasting and Evil
Why is the boasting in the James passage above, evil?
It deludes, living a lie, and it leaves God out of the equation.
Imagine not paying our rent or the monthly payments on our mortgage, and what’s more, not bothering to tell the bank or the landlord. It is the same when we make detailed plans without prefacing them in, “If it is the Lord’s will.” Like the landlord, God knows we’re defrauding him.
If we do this consciously—and just about all of us don’t; we do it subconsciously—we sin. Now that we know the truth about our plans for tomorrow, a thing we’ll never have—as we only have today, it is important that we try and instil the habit of recognition for our planning, with God at the forefront.
Even More Reason
Because we’re all so very apt at setting our expectations upon the achievement of our plans, this imperative from James is even more important. It defuses the self-inflated importance of our plans; those without God in view.
We can easily see here that our best God-blessed position is to see every perceptible eventuality before we set our mind, and our heart-of-hearts, on one particular plan coming to pass.
Being that this would actually be impossible—to perceive every possible outcome—we’re best keeping an open mind and heart on such things, and always holding out—and wishing—for God’s will to become apparent, and then to have the power and volition to carry it out.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.