Summary: God expects His people to plan the future after factoring in His rule over their life.

JAMES 4:13-17


“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.”

The world economy is changing at a dizzying pace; uncertainty defines modern life. Respected corporations are declaring bankruptcy while corporate executives squander obscene amounts of moneys. Stock markets are crashing, primarily because of the ineptitude and excesses of politicians who thought they could engineer social outcomes favourable to their pet philosophies. Retirement funds and life savings are wiped out overnight and people without a stake in the country live off the largess of politicians who impose ever-greater tax burdens on the middle class.

It is as though we are watching the Apocalypse unfold before our eyes, as a voice cries following the opening of the third seal, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine” [REVELATION 6:6]. The necessities of life during the Great Tribulation will be severely limited, while luxury items will be readily available, if one has the money to purchase them.

Soon, the voice of a mighty angel will be heard exulting over the great Babylon that will be thrown down:

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,

and will be found no more;

and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,

will be heard in you no more,

and a craftsman of any craft

will be found in you no more,

and the sound of the mill

will be heard in you no more,

and the light of a lamp

will shine in you no more,

and the voice of bridegroom and bride

will be heard in you no more,

for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,

and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.”

[REVELATION 18:21b-23]

While we are not now in the Great Tribulation, current events certainly highlight in bold relief and with terrifyingly real probability the imminent prospect of the Great Tribulation.

James is not making an eschatological statement; his letter offers eminently practical instruction for anyone endeavouring to live a godly life in the here-and-now. And though events are moving at a rapid clip as the current economic meltdown erodes the dreams of multitudes, the instruction James offers will help any Christian who labours in the world today.

THE BEST LAID PLANS… — “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.” I recall a story that I heard years ago when I first began to preach. A preacher asked a young man to describe his plans for the future. “Well,” said the young man, “I intend to complete university.”

“And then?” inquired the preacher.

“Well, I suppose I’ll get a job and work.”

“And then?” inquired the preacher again.

“I’ll probably get married.”

“And then?” inquired the preacher yet again.

“I’ll save my money for retirement.”

“And then?” inquired the preacher one more time.

“Well,” began the young man, somewhat more hesitantly, “I’ll retire and enjoy my days.”

“And then?” asked the preacher.

“I suppose I’ll die,” said the young man, now surprisingly sober.

“And then?” asked the preacher one final time.

This present life is a vestibule to eternity. How we fare in eternity is determined by our actions in this present life. James is not arguing against planning how to conduct one’s life; he is cautioning against planning for tomorrow without considering the will of God for your life. As an ad that is current on television states, time is like money; it is not how much you have that matters, but how you spend it. No one has full control over life; and assuredly, no one knows the day of death. The Wise Man has written, “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death” [ECCLESIASTES 8:8].

In light of James’ forceful reminder of the brevity of life, several important issues related to the conduct of one’s life must be addressed. Though I cannot hope to exhaust all that could be said, perhaps even should be said, concerning these vital issues, it is nevertheless important that we take time to consider certain issues since understanding the biblical view will enable each of us to conduct our life in an honourable and profitable fashion.

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