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.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
I sure hope there is a line we can walk between careful, wise planning and “pretentious” boasting about the future. After all, many of us make decisions every day based on what we hope to accomplish down the road. The Bible even encourages us to be good stewards of resources, time and relationships, and planning for the future is essential to wise stewardship. So, where is that line we shouldn’t cross? What makes one plan wise and another pretentious?
There is a word here that helps us understand what James is warning us against: “boasting.” We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We can’t be sure of how our plans will turn out. No one can perfectly predict whether their investments of money or time will become profitable. So, it’s unwise to boast about the future or to presume you know exactly the right course to take that will undoubtedly lead to some grand success. James isn’t saying it’s wrong to plan ahead or to have long-term goals. He is warning against arrogant assumptions that may not align with God’s will, and following God’s will is the central point of this passage. Instead of boasting in our great ideas and presuming about the future, we should entrust all our plans – even tomorrow itself – into God’s wise and powerful hands, believing that what “the Lord wants” will lead to the best outcome for our lives.
That’s also why it’s sinful to neglect something you know you ought to do. Not following God’s will is a sin, whether it has to do with how you treat other people or how you plan for the future. If you know God is calling you to help someone in need and don’t do it, that’s a sin. If you know God wants you to reconcile a relationship and yet fail to follow through, that’s a sin. We usually think about sins of commission, the bad things we do, but there are also sins of omission, failing to do things we know we should. It might even be true that most of our sins fall into this latter category. Like the priest and the Levite who walked past the injured man in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, we often look the other way when God presents us with an opportunity to serve him (Luke 10:25-37). So, when it comes to planning for the future or simply deciding what you are going to do today, the best course of action is always to seek after God’s will. Pray about it. Listen to the wisdom of scripture. Invite the Spirit to speak into your heart. Seek after the wise council of trusted friends. As God makes his good and perfect will known in your heart, you can move forward in faith – without boasting – to do what is right.
Thank You, Father, for revealing Your will to me. Teach me to listen to Your voice, and give me courage to do what You say is best. Use me to bless others more than myself, as I trust Your plans for my future. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian