Don’t Presume on God (James 4:13-17)
James 4:13-17, NIV
13 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.” 14 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. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
This is a passage many simply read through and never stop to think about what it means. What is James telling us? He’s saying we should not presume on God’s time. Despite contemporary wisdom, we are not the masters of our own destiny.
In light of what we learned in James 4:1-3 (“Yes, Motive Matters”), what’s wrong with verse 13?
Their motivation is all wrong. Remember, James’ audience was (and is) believers in Christ—Christians, “little Christs”. Their motivation should have to spread the gospel (which we know is the Lord’s will), instead it was greed.
Verse 14 clearly states: we don’t know the future. We don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. How in the world can we presume that our “plans” have any bearing on what the Lord will do. We are simply a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Think about it: who was your great, great, grandmother? You great, great, great, great grandfather? Don’t know? That’s how utterly insignificant our lives are compared to even a few hundred years. What are we compared to eternity? “A mist” is probably pretty generous, huh?
Verse 15 and 16 tells us what our attitude should be: humble submission. if the Lord wills it—literally if the Lord allows. That’s the perspective a believer and follower of Christ should have. It is the Lord’s decision what we will do. We are not our own, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
James closes this section in verse 17 by giving us focus.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Pretty strait, huh? Sin is “missing the mark of God”. And it is sin to know what we should do and choose not to do it. We call those “sins of commission”. Have you ever not done what you knew was wrong? Of course we have. That’s sin. James, here, is basically cutting through all the “fluff” and reminding us about sin. The point: keep your focus on obey the Lord’s will.