If God wills
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
Planning is the key to accomplishment in any field or endeavor. From a spiritual standpoint, we normally consider planning good stewardship. We would hardly consider it sin, much less blasphemy. Yet from the text, it says in no uncertain terms that it very well could be. Planning, James reasons can arise from arrogance and be considered boasting. This is true especially when sustained success makes us forget about God and foolishly think we control our own destinies. It happens when the pleasures of the world becomes our obsession that leads us to be pulled away from God. James statement is a blank form that could be filled in with details by any real businessman planning a business venture: “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit” (v. 13). No specifics, not the date, not the city, not the kind of business, not the amount of projected profit. James goes on to remind us that all our plans are provisional for we do not even know what will happen tomorrow. Then he raised a rhetorical question: “What is your life?” His answer is visual. We are a pale morning fog, a puff of smoke, a thin cloud; hardly noticeable, unsustainable, insignificant. In short, he describes the frailty of life here in this world. With that in mind, James poses a powerful statement that properly acknowledges our frailty: “What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (v. 15). What God wants us to realize is that our view of our future and even life itself should be contingent upon the will of God; no matter what it is or who we are. Whether we recognize it or not, God is in control of what happens. When we claim we are followers of Christ, all the more we should recognize and live by this truth or else we are insulting God when we live as if He were not the one who is in charge of everything. We must stop this, even if it means literally inserting “if the Lord wills” into our regular vocabulary. Several times, this attitude was shown in Scripture; Acts 19:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19; 16:7; and Hebrews 6:3. When you do not consider and put into account God’s will, “you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (v. 16). We can only boast in what God is doing in us and through us. “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We should not ignore God’s sovereignty over our lives when we are making plans. We need to respect Him for who He is.