James 4: 13 – 17


Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.”  Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  Anyone, the, who know the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.  

All right … pitch your calendars … send your day-timers through the shredder … no more plans … no more planning meetings … just see what happens today … Woohoo!!

Is that how James is suggesting we live?  Of course not.  He makes 3 very pertinent points, both to his contemporary readers in first century Palestine, and to western Christians in 2012.

First … you don’t control your life.  Why in the world do we keep playing like we do?  In fact, we have control over precious little.  Life is brief … unpredictable.  It’s here … then gone.  He calls it a “mist”.  Living on the Texas coast, we experience intense fog during February in the early mornings.  You can’t see.  But if you wait just a bit, let the sun get higher in the sky, that fog burns off and is gone.  It doesn’t last long.  ”In the Bible, a mist often appears as a symbol for something that quickly passes away.  It can refer to water, fog, or clouds.  Mists do not last long in Palestine.  Their form is transitory.  This evaporation is a fitting way to refer to the ephemeral attribute of human life.” (Holman Bible Dictionary)  Mist … fleeting … life.  Don’t forget that.  We know that we have the ‘right now’.  That’s all.  Maybe tomorrow, but maybe not.

Second … only God knows what is in your future, for today and for eternity.  God is sovereign.  God is omniscient.  His Will will be accomplished, with our cooperation or without it.  Make your plans … but make them under the umbrella of the sovereignty and wisdom and will of Jehovah.  Make your plans … knowing that God may indeed have another path that we have not yet discerned.  Make your plans … but hold onto them very loosely.  As believers, we cannot afford to grasp our own plans, our own agendas, too tightly.  God may step into a moment and require us to change directions.  We grasp tightly onto the person of the living God … that’s where we hold on for dear life.  Literally!  Beware presuming that if you plan it, it will happen.

Third … boasting is dangerous.  James uses two closely connected terms in his descriptions in these verses.  One is “boast”.  To boast means to glory in something.  These people in James’ illustration were boasting in their own plans and doings without any reference to, or acknowledgment of God.  All boasting is not sin.  Consider these additional references to boasting:

Psalm 34:2  My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Psalm 44:8  In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.

1 Corinthians 1:31  Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord

Galatians 6:14  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Ephesians 2: 8 – 9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

The other word is “brag”.  Bragging is pretension or arrogance in word and deed.  It’s boasting with the goal of impressing others.  Not only were the people James uses as an example boasting, finding glory in their own plans and abilities and ingenuity, they were bragging about it … letting others know just how clever they were.  No place for God.  No place for gratitude.  That kind of boasting and bragging is evil.

James closes this thought with a warning.  Barclay says that James is in essence saying:  ”You have been warned; the truth has been placed before your eyes.”  So to us, to believers, to continue in the self-focused habit of planning and boasting about it without any acknowledgment of God and His sovereignty, for us it is sin.  Not carelessness.  Not forgetfulness.  Sin.

Always remember Proverbs 3: 5 – 8

Lord, forgive us this sin of presumption.  We bow down today, together, and say that You are the sovereign Lord.  Our futures are in Your hands.  Our plans are in Your hands.  You are all wisdom.  We ask that You, in mercy, pour out wisdom upon us.  And our Father, if it is in Your sovereign will, we will _______________.