“Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
(James 4:13-17 ESV)
In our society, we like to plan. In fact, we encourage people to plan for just about everything. We encourage them to decide what they would like to do and to discover how they can accomplish their goal.
We’re always asking high school students what they would like to do as a career, and how they plan to accomplish their goal. We ask young couples about their plans when it comes to starting a family. And we encourage people to prepare for retirement by putting a savings plan into place. The examples are endless.
In the above passage, however, James challenges this way of thinking. I say that he challenges it because he calls us to consider the implications of our planning. And he calls us to look at life differently.
Although we tend to think that our method of planning is wise, James tells us that it’s arrogant. It’s arrogant because we act as if we have something to say when it comes to our future. It’s arrogant because we act as if we know what tomorrow will hold.
He reminds us that, in ourselves, we are nothing. He reminds us that our life is a mist. We’re here for a short time, and then we’re gone without a trace. And, for this reason, we're to consider God’s will for our life.
We ought to say, he tells us: If it’s God’s will, we’ll do this or that. While we can utter these words as we discuss our future, this isn’t as much of a formula as it is an attitude. We must approach life with a spirit of humility, recognizing that God holds our future in his hands. And we must approach life recognizing that God blesses us with everything we need that we might accomplish his purpose.