13Come 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”—
14yet 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.
15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
16As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Whenever there is a trip to go on or an event to plan, I’m always the one who gets to make the reservations and lay out the path we’re going to take. I love finding the best hotel or restaurant. Looking at the maps and finding the best route is interesting and planning what to do along the way is fun. By the time it comes to executing the plan, I’m usually done with the project and ready to move on to something else. The fun definitely lies in the planning! Years ago, when the plans fell apart, or didn’t meet my expectations I was disappointed and often angry. Now that I’m old, I’m over that. Too many of my well laid plans fell to ashes and along the way I learned that my sense of control is an illusion.
James speaks about just such a mind set in these closing verses of chapter 4. Sometimes we arrogantly assume that all of our well laid plans are going to bear the fruit we hope for and when that doesn’t happen, we are unhappy. In all likelihood, James is speaking to the businessmen in the church who boast with pride about what big plans they are going to bring together in the future. (One cannot help but notice that the tongue is once again the big culprit here!) But the admonition certainly doesn’t apply only to the business world.
Back in college, I was working the perfect plan. My goal of becoming a DCE (Director of Christian Education) was easily within reach and I was going to become the best in the business. My future was all sewed up. Then God introduced me to Cliff, a future pastor. Becoming a pastor’s wife was absolutely not in my life-plan. It was in fact a deal breaker. Typically, DCEs didn’t marry pastors because it meant the end of their career. God had a completely different plan for me. Hindsight is of course 20/20. Looking back I can see that had I followed my plan I would have missed out on my beautiful daughters and incredible grandchildren. I would have missed out on 35 years of marriage (so far) to the perfect husband for me. And I would have missed out on the exquisite ministry that comes with being the pastor’s wife. My plan was far less than what God had planned for me.
James’ warning is well taken. Holding out to see what God has planned is a far better option for He always means us well. Arrogantly boast about our own measly plans is foolish and those words are best left unspoken.