4:13 reads - "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." Only a person who is full of pride would make such a statement. Only a person who believes that he is the master of his own fate would speak that way. Note carefully that those who speak such are presumptuous in: (1) the time in which they will leave, (2) the city to which they will choose to go, (3) the period in which they will remain there, (4) the business they will pursue, and (5) the success that will result from that business. These people were making elaborate plans without even considering God and His will for them; they were detailing all of their intentions without even realizing that they really couldn't control any of those things! They were thinking like the rich fool in Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21. They needed to heed the divine wisdom of Proverbs 27:1 - "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."
That is James' point in 4:14 - "You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." How foolish it is to build on the future when life itself is built on a foundation of mist! Job realized this (Job 7:7). What kind of structure can one build on a foundation of mist? A very tentative and shaky one! No mortal knows what will happen tomorrow, but those to whom James was writing were making definite plans for a year's worth of tomorrows! Ironically, they didn't even know what would occur on the first of those tomorrows! Would they be alive? Would there be a tomorrow? Would they be physically able to carry out their plans? Would circumstances allow them to enter the city? Would they be able to pursue their business? Would it be profitable? It was foolish for them to disregard all of these uncertainties (and others), each of which was in God's hand. The bottom line for us is this: life is uncertain. Other than the Lord, no one really knows what's going to happen tomorrow. We think we know, but we don't really. Life is so brief. It is here one moment and gone the next. Friends, how should we be living because of these undeniable truths? Think about it.
4:15 states - "Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'" The point is not that we are required to use these words as a formula in our speech. If we used this phrase in every sentence it would soon become meaningless, as if we weren't using it at all! James is teaching us what kind of attitude we should have. We need to have an attitude that gives God His rightful place in the planning and ordering of our lives. Faithful Christians will always take God into consideration in everything that they propose to do; they will pray to God that His will be done and not their own. To plan ahead is right and good--just make sure the acknowledgement that God's will must prevail is firmly engrained in your mind! The wise will take Solomon's advice from Proverbs 3:6 - "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Do not exclude God from your thinking regarding any aspect of life. Pray that His will would be done always in your life.
We will continue this series of lessons tomorrow, if the Lord wills.