We are obsessed with tomorrow. It’s just how we are wired. We plan for tomorrow, we worry about tomorrow, we dream about tomorrow, then we change our plans and worry some more. We want to know what’s next. We want to see past the bend in the road. We want to control what is coming our way. And when we can’t? We pretend we can and call it “planning.” (What is the saying? Man plans and God laughs?)
In these 5 short verses at the end of Chapter 4, James warns us against boasting in our plans for the future. Why? Because we are so very small. We are but a vapor, and we are certainly not God.
Does James mean for us to literally preface everything with a flippant “If the Lord wills?” “I’m getting a haircut on Saturday, Lord willing.” “If the Lord wills, I will stop by the grocery store after work.” “I will clean the downstairs bathroom, but only if the Lord wills.” (In my house, I guess the Lord doesn’t often will that one!)
If only it were that simple, right? No, the arrogance James speaks of is not cured by cliches or mere semantics. It requires a heart-level change, the habit of holding our plans and dreams with open hands, acknowledging the Lord as King over our past, present and future. Just as Christ himself commands us not to worry about tomorrow in Matthew 6, James reminds us not to charge ahead so confidently that we forget God and fail to seek God’s blessing.
But also? We are not to sit idly by. Verse 17 is clear: when God reveals to us what we are to do, when the Holy Spirit leads us to act in faith or move forward with truth, we are to do it. Sins of omission (not doing that which we should do) are no less serious an offense to God’s holiness than sins of commission (doing that which we ought not do).
If that last sentence overwhelms you, you are not alone. It overwhelms me, too. All the more reason for us to celebrate the One who holds our tomorrows in His hand. Let us boast in our weakness and His sufficient grace today, not in any plans of our own making.