Listen up you who want to say [something like], "Today or tomorrow we will go to that town, spend a year [or so] there, do business and make a profit"? Yet, you do not even know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a short time and then vanishing.
     Instead, you ought to be saying, "If the Lord wishes it, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your [presumed] eminence; and all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who in knowing the right thing to do yet fails to do it, [that person] commits sin. - James 4:13-17/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

Making plans

Planning for the future? In James, says Bruce C Wearne, the focus is upon a "presumption among the followers of Jesus Christ that has them thinking of themselves as extra-capable strategic planners". PICTURE: rawpixel/Unsplash

 

IN A NUTSHELL:
James challenges the pride of those who think they can plan the future. 

This letter demands our concentration. It is not always apparent how it is held together. Yes it was written as a letter giving its readers "straight from the shoulder" instruction. And we can say there is a persistent exposé of a false self-confidence that is often manifest amongst those professing faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus far we have read how James advises his readers: to desist from showing deference to those of wealth and status; to form their community with respect to their corporate responsibilities for each other; to train themselves in right speaking; to care for their neighbours; to leave behind relentless competition and bitter rivalry.

Being a member of the community of Christ's disciples means accepting a calling to serve, to show mercy, to encourage others to live a life which is truly whole, integrating faith and works. The dispersed extended family of Jesus Christ is bound together not for the purpose of standing in judgement on one another, or of the world in which they serve, but to bear one another's burdens, to humbly serve each other as together the sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ bring healing and hope to an orphaned and widowed world.

So here James focuses upon a presumption among the followers of Jesus Christ that has them thinking of themselves as extra-capable strategic planners, those who have a knack for deciding when to move on and when to stay. Had not their Lord said that it was to be in their going into all the world that they were to proclaim the gospel? And did He not say that He would accompany them until the end of the age? So why shouldn't they become a community that is known for taking control of its own future? What could be wrong with that?

James is reminding His readers that the purpose of life is not found in buying and selling and growing rich. Buying and selling is no different from the flowers of the field, the clouds that scud across the sky. These are here for a while and then they go - signs of God's goodness, reminders of His promises.

Those following Jesus acknowledge their life's purpose with an open gratitude. They receive the gifts the Lord continues to pour out upon His creation and are thankful. Presumptive planning, boasting about the future, is an evil. Face the future by leaving such presumption behind. If you have good things to do, go ahead and do them! This is all part of a simple truth that good things can be done because the Lord God has been good to us.