Most of us like to plan. One-year, five-year, ten-year plans. What we’ll do, when we’ll do it, and how we’ll get there.
If we invest 10% of our income starting at age 25, we’ll retire at 65 with no financial worries. Next year we’re going on vacation. Next month we’ll take a couple days off from work. Next week we’ll get this report done or that chore finished.
“See you Friday night,” we say without thinking. “I’ll be there at 6:00.”
James doesn’t particularly like all that, or at least he’s got a strongly worded warning:
Come 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”—yet 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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13-17).
I don’t think James is against retirement plans, or saving up for a vacation. What he doesn’t like—what God doesn’t like—is when we make plans as if we control the future.
As if we’re certain what’ll happen. Like the if-then connection between now and future events is inevitable.If I do this, then I get that.
It’s me-centered, isn’t it? And that’s the root problem. We don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow, but God does. We’ve got no clue what our career will do, what’ll happen to the economy, how our health will hold up.
But God knows.
And that’s where James’ “If the Lord wills” comes in. We just don’t have the ability to make plans about the future without God’s involvement, and that’s why we’ve got to submit it all to his will.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan—see the book of Proverbs, for example—but it means we ought to recognize God’s hand in overseeing everything we do.
So let’s plan what we hope to do this week, next month, or next year.
Let’s make vacation and retirement plans.
Let’s dream big and make bucket lists.
But let’s do it all . . . if the Lord wills. It’s all his future anyway.