Summary: James has some strong words for those who would boast and brag about wealth rather than follow God’s will for their life.
What is my life? James 4:13-17
The Attorney and the Fisherman
A hard-driving corporate attorney saw a fisherman he knew from church one afternoon, legs dangling off the pier as he helped his two young sons catch crabs. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today.”
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?”
“What would I do with them?” asked the fisherman.
“You could earn more money and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. Then you could buy a fleet of boats. Soon you’d be rich like me.”
“What would I do then?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life.”
“What do you think I’m doing now?”, said the fisherman.
—Ray Pritchard, quoted in Men of Integrity, Vol. 3, no. 5.Boasting About Tomorrow
Ah, wouldn’t that be the life? Sitting around on a sunny afternoon by a lake with a line in the water? Or perhaps you have a different picture in your mind what it would be like to be relaxed? But do we live our lives that way these days, just relaxing? I think, for most people in this part of the world, that life unfortunately is too busy to enjoy the simpler things in life. We have a real tendency in North America to spend more time working for today and worrying about tomorrow and how much money we have in our RRSP for the future. We worry about where the money is coming from, and where it has to go once we have it. We complain that we don’t have enough time in a day to get our work done and wish we had more…time or work…we have to choose. We worry and plan about what this year will bring in terms of health, wealth and success.
James has some strong words for those who would boast and brag about wealth rather than follow God’s will for their life. Let’s turn in our bibles to James 4:13-17 and read this passage of scripture.
13Now 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." 14Why, 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. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Do we realize that we live on borrowed time? What do we get in life, 70 years, 80 years, more if we’re so blessed? Seems like a long time, especially when you’re 7 or 8 years old. But that time goes so fast. It seems that the longer we live, the faster that calendar goes by. Rather than hours and minutes, time seems to be going by in weeks, months, and even years! And how do we often see people spending that time? It’s on how successful they can be, how much money can they make, how much stuff can they own, and comparing themselves to the people next door? How sad really. A life like that is all about greed. Jesus makes it pretty clear in this parable that greed is something to avoid at all cost, because it will cost you everything.
15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ’What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18"Then he said, ’This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ’
20"But God said to him, ’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
One thing we need to be clear on here. Nowhere does James say that boasting and bragging about having a LOT of money is wrong. It’s the bragging and boasting that’s wrong. We could be just as guilty about bragging bout $20 as we would be about $20 million. I don’t want us to think that because we aren’t millionaires, that this passage does not apply to us. A person could be bankrupt and still have a problem with desire for money and possessions. It’s the desire for things that corrupts us, not the things themselves.