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.
Men want to be like God – knowing the end from the beginning. Have you heard politicians speak? They exude such a brazen confidence about how they will win the elections this year. They take it for granted that they would be alive, or healthy, or financially stable to be able to carry out successful campaigns. They don’t think that God may raise a more powerful contender. They assume that the Lord Jesus is not coming back before then.
For example, listen to the Deputy President speaking – he is not thinking about 2017, he is on 2022 elections! For him 2017 is already concluded! With all due respect for his person, position, and profession of faith, he does not speak like a believer for he does not say, ‘If the Lord wills’.
This is what Dr. John Blanchard calls ‘practical atheism’. Pastor James is concerned for those who live and speak in a proud manner that is without faith in God.
This is the character of a person blinded by the god of this world (vv. 13-14):
- Forgets God’s providence
a) Plans – “Today or tomorrow we will go …”
b) Places – “…to such a town…”
c) Period – “…spend a year there…”
d) Purposes – “…and trade…”
- Loves earthly profits – “…and make profit.”
- Forgets the brevity of life
a) You are ignorant of the future – “..yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” (v.14)
b) Your Life is short – “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Life is short – it is compared to “the flowers of the field” (Isa. 40:6-7); to the wind (Job 7:7); a leaf before the wind (Job 13:25); and a shadow (Job 14:2).
There is a heap of similes in Job 9:25-26. The Word uses all sorts of similes to remind us of our own mortality and brevity. This is order to check those proud human desires. At the heart of this presumption is faithlessness.
Alec Motyer puts it this way:
What is this presumptuousness of which James speaks?
1. It first touches life: “…today…tomorrow… a year.” (v.13). It is the presumption that we can continue alive at will.
2. It touches choice: “…today or tomorrow we will go…spend a year… trade…” I tis the presumption that we are masters of our own life, so that we need to do no more than decide and lo and behold, it will happen like that.
3. It touches ability: “… and trade and get profit.” Of course we shall succeed if we want! We can do it!
This is the character commended (vv. 15-17)
a) Denounce worldliness – “Instead you ought to say…”
Blatant arrogance and brazen bravado is denounced while holy reverence is commended. Pure lips produced holy forms of speech from a pure heart and conscience is encouraged.
b) Faith & dependence on God – “If the Lord wills we will live and do this or that.”
The children depend on the Lord for the next heartbeat. So Paul puts it this way:
· But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 1Co 4:19.
· For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 1Co 16:7.
· always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. Rom 1:10.
· I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. Php 2:19.
· Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
· Gen 28:20.
· And this we will do if God permits. Heb 6:3.
It is a vain thing to promise ourselves great things without the permission of providence. How can we do this?
· Undertakings without prayer
· Confidence in the future without God’s permission – like Benhadad (1 Kings 20:10-11).
· Procrastination on repentance
c) Denounce all boasting – “All such boasting is evil!”
In boasting people assume that they are better and wiser. Yet we are to count others more significant than ourselves. When you put your hope on worldly pursuits and hopes, or you put your stake on human predictions or projections of success, then be sure to fall into this trap.
All boasting is evil because it is worldly complacency. Boasting is evil in its nature, since it defies God. It is evil in its effect because it hinders you from obtaining every good gift and every perfect gifts that comes from the Father of lights. It is evil because it brings God’s judgement for He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Fallen man not only commits sin, he also glories in it. Man is so fallen that he is turned up-side down – his love is where is hate should be – loving sin. His hatred is where is love should be – hating God and His blessings instead of loving God with his whole soul, heart, mind and strength.
This arrogance is spoken about in 1 John 2:16 as the ‘pride of life’
d) Willing obedience (v.17)
Some people may have objected to James’ teaching saying that they know that life is short and that God’s providence rules everything. So he deals with this thinking by telling them that since they know, all the more why they should submit to the Lord. In this James reveals the nature and effects of sin (C.f. John 9:41, 15:22):
1) Sins of ignorance are sins, though more forgivable (1 Tim. 1:13) and not punished so hard (Lk 12:47).
2) Affected ignorance renders us highly culpable (2 Pet. 3:5) – that is, when people shut the windows and resist the light, for then they could know but choose not to.
· It is not enough to know what is good – we must willingly obey.
· Sins of knowledge are the most terrible. They have more malice and contempt for God, His mercy and grace and His revealed word and law.
· Sins of omission are aggravated by knowledge, as are sins of commission.