Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
The fourth chapter ends with a curious little section, one in which James points us squarely at our priority systems. He starts in verse 13 with a business example pointing to our big plans to do something. Yes, we have these plans and we’re going to do such and such… but in truth, we don’t even know what tomorrow will bring, how can we be so sure about all of those plans?
He makes it quite clear that our lives are short and that the time flies by and what are we doing?
Oh, we’re making plans as though we were in charge of things, but we aren’t really in charge, are we? We mustn’t be so arrogant that we think we are more than we are, we mustn’t be so arrogant that we think that the priorities of this world are really our guiding principles, for we will come to ruin on this path.
Instead, we should recognize that whatever our plans may be, God is the one who is in control, and that our plans are subject to His will. Yes, His will, not ours. That opens up a can of worms, don’t you think? If our plans are subject to God’s will and our plans are only about making money and a place in this world then how can we think our plans are anywhere within His will?
Remember Jesus telling His disciples, on three different occasions, that anything they asked for in His name would be granted to them? Do you also recall the context? Each of these times was in the midst of a section that was about doing God’s will, so that anything we ask in Jesus’ name to do God’s will, God will grant. Keeping this in mind, doesn’t it seem like James is really saying the same thing? Before you answer, let’s have a look at the last verse: If we know what good we should be doing, but we don’t do it, that is sin for us. If we know that we are to do His will in our lives and we don’t, what is that?
I have no idea what God’s special plan just for me is. To be perfectly candid with you, I don’t know that He has a special plan just for me; who am I? But I do know what His plan is for all of us… don’t you?
We are called to love one another, to share His love with others, to serve Him by serving others in a way that advances His purpose… in short, His will is that we each do our part to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Since we know this is what He wants of us, what does James call it when we know but don’t do?