Final thoughts on James 4:13-17
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. NKJV
The Lord closes out the fourth chapter of James by giving us three principles on planning for the future.
First, we are not to plan presumptuously. It is important to note here, that God is not saying, “Don’t think about the future or plan for it at all.” Jesus spoke of the foolishness of building without planning to see if you can afford to build (Lk. 14:28). Proverbs 14:8 says that the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way (where he is going and what he is going to do). In Genesis 41, Joseph, who was a godly man, made plans for storing up the grain during the 7 years of plenty so that there would be abundance during the 7 year of famine. Proverbs 21:5 says that the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty (don’t take the time to plan wisely), surely to poverty. There is an old saying, “If a person aims at nothing, then that is exactly what he will hit. What the Lord is saying in our text is, “Don’t plan presumptuously or arrogantly, assuming to know the outcome, as such arrogance is evil (vs. 16-17).
Second, we only know the events of the present, not what the future will bring. While we may plan for the future, the Lord exhorts us not to worry about it (Mat. 6:34, Phil. 4:6) as we cannot change the outcome of what will happen (Matt. 6:27), but rather to trust in the Lord for the best outcome (Prov. 3:5-6, Rom. 8:28). The one important thing in life that we need to concern ourselves with is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 10:41-42). Satan wants us to live in the past or in the future, not in the present. If we live in the past, we can be crippled with guilt or regret over our failures. If we live in the future, we can become puffed up, living on past glories, or tend to be presumptuous (as in our text), or we can worry about tomorrow. Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in today (Psa. 118:24).
Third, our plans ought to always be tempered by submission to the will of the God. If it is not God’s will, we should not want it, nor will we get it. The purpose of prayer is not to try and change God’s mind or get Him to see things from our perspective. The purpose of prayer is to line us up with the will of God (I Jn. 5:14, Mat. 6:10, Lk. 22:42). The only real worry that we ought to ever have in life is, “Are we being submissive to God’s will for our lives?” Are we willing to let God have His way in every area of our lives; even in those areas that we don’t really want to let go of; even in circumstances that we would not choose for ourselves? Only by submitting to His will, can we experience the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).