Summary: Many people miscalculate the time they have to live.

“Fatal Miscalculations”

James 4:13-16


To miscalculate means to misjudge, to make a mistake, to calculate wrongly.

History is filled with miscalculations. Some miscalculations can be costly. Some miscalculations can be deadly.

Example # 1

The Mars Orbiter was the first interplanetary weather satellite, but was lost in 1999 when it came too close to Mars and crashed into the planet’s atmosphere. The problem was a fatal miscalculation by the Nasa team when converting English measurements into metric units. The miscalculation came at a cost of $125 million.

Example # 2

Robert Falcon Scott, the polar explorer, made a fatal miscalculation concerning the amount of food his men would need on his 1910 expedition to the South Pole. He allotted to few calories per day when hauling sledges at higher altitudes. All of the men died — not of extreme cold, but of starvation. A fatal miscalculation (

There are miscalculations that are costly and there are miscalculations that are deadly, but the most fatal miscalculations are spiritual!

In this service tonight, you maybe one who has a disaster looming because of a miscalculation about life and death.

The letter of James was written by the half brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem. James strikes at the heart of pride in chapter 5. He says, “God resists the proud” in verse 6. He urges his readers to submit to God in all things. One of the outcomes of pride is self-sufficiency, self-confidence, arrogance. A prideful heart lays its own plans and determines its own agenda in life. James is addressing traveling merchants of his day who went from city to city making as much money as they could. They were successful and puffed up as a result. God did not factor into the equation of their lives. They were getting along just fine without God. As a result of pride, some to whom he was writing were making some fatal miscalculations. These miscalculations, if left uncorrected, would lead to a wasted life.

Notice their three miscalculations.

First . . .

They made a Fatal Miscalculation about Tomorrow (v. 13-14a).

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (vv. 13-14a).

They determined what they would do.

When? /“today or tomorrow”/They arrogantly thought they controlled events.


Where?/“to such and such a city”/They arrogantly thought

What?/“buy and sell”

Why?/“make a profit”

They gave no consideration to the will of God or the guidance of God in their lives.

They were guilty of the sin of presumption. They were totally dependent upon themselves to achieve their goals in life. They were arrogant, self-confident, and cocky. These were self-sufficient business men who had a laser like focus on their personal success. Seeking God’s help and direction were not a part of their vocabulary.

James was addressing a group of people who had one focus — the pursuit of more! Everything else, their treatment of others, their view of God — was secondary to their goal of gaining wealth.

They were focused entirely about making money. Their future plans and ambitions were about wealth. They gave no thought to God or their need for God. They were not asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

But . . . they miscalculated. By their measurements they had many years to do as they pleased.

James rebukes them saying, “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” Tomorrow is in God’s hands.

Their view of themselves is best expressed in the poem Invictus by English poet William Ernest Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.


What is wrong with this attitude?

It is certainly not wrong to work and seek a living. Honest work is commended in the Bible.

It is certainly not wrong to be engaged in commerce, to buy and sell. What was wrong?

It is certainly not wrong to plan for the future.

First, they had the wrong focus. Their focus was the love of money. They lived for making money, not for serving the Lord.

Second, they had the wrong decision making process. They made decisions without seeking the Lord’s direction for their lives.

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