The Expository Files.


All Such Boasting is Evil

James 4:13-17  

Never, never, never leave God out of your life's plans. Life's plans sometimes collapse against the uncertainty of the future. We do not know what tomorrow may bring, and to foolishly pretend that we are in control of the direction our lives will take is courting disaster. We are only in control of the responses we make to events, but very often not in control of the events themselves.

Christians ought to have a keen concept of the Lord's purpose in our lives. That purpose should be our rock and confidence. We know that whatever the future holds as far as this life's events; good or bad; foreseen or unexpected; that there is Someone upon whom we can depend. This is a great source of comfort and joy in all of life's circumstances. It is living by faith.

We must never allow ourselves the "luxury" of leaving God out of our plans (in truth, such a "luxury" is a curse). Those in rebellion against the God of heaven seldom think of Him in their daily plans. Indeed, many of them mock and ridicule the idea that God has anything to do with our existence at all. The phrase "God is dead" was a way in which the "enlightened" expressed the notion that men no longer think much about God in western society. They do not believe He is literally dead, but that He is obsolete as far as the laws, governments and citizens of western nations are concerned. We no longer very often appeal to Him as an authority for right and wrong.

It is arrogance to exclude God from our plans, whether as a nation or as individuals. There are even "Christian denominations" that no longer appeal to God's Scriptures to determine their beliefs and practices. What a shame!

But let us focus down to the personal, individual level. How prominent of a role do we, as God's children, allow God to play in our daily lives and plans. Perhaps not as much as we should. We must not allow the world's neglect to become our own, else we may well suffer the same fate (James 4:13-17).

Where is God in Our Daily Plans?
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' (James 4:13).

The point here is not to not make plans for the future. Honest business, hard work, earning a living and making a profit are all righteous acts. Karl Marx didn't think so, but the Bible teaches it. But along with honestly gained profits and prosperity comes responsibility. It is not sinful to be rich, but it is sinful to be selfish , conceited and arrogant. We are told labor with our own hands "what is good, that (we) may have something to share with him who has need." (Ephesians 4:28). The Scriptures say, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to become conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God..." (1 Timothy 6:17). At the same time, we are instructed not to allow ourselves and others to lead an undisciplined life of not working. We are not to feed the lazy, but rather the truly needy (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Also, many of the Proverbs are about being industrious and successful, though they also warn against the pride that riches sometimes cause (Proverbs 10:4; 21:5; 18:11,12). So the problem is not in the planning, nor in the diligence. It is in doing so without thought of God and spiritual considerations.

What Will Your Life Be Like Tomorrow?
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow." (James 4:14a).

Again, as noted above, Paul warned against fixing our "hope on the uncertainty of riches." Now, if riches do not come because our plans fail, what will our lives then be like?

For those without God, very pitiful indeed; misery, regret, resentment and general unhappiness. People are always looking for "the sure thing" but few find it.

What is a "sure thing"? Definitions may differ; but here's mine. A "sure thing" would be something I want or need and of which I can be sure that I will receive it. I contend that there is really only one sure thing in this life as far as profit goes. Jesus said, " Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroys, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal." (Matthew 6:19,20).

Even if all my plans for profit and prosperity should go the way of the stock market crash and depression of 1929, I will still be able to retain my treasures in heaven which I accumulate by faith. My inheritance is there, and I am on my way to receive it. There is no other sure thing, for "we brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it either." (1 Timothy 6:7). Nothing we gain from this world's riches is a sure thing. In fact, we can be sure that we will leave it all behind.

So, what will my life be like tomorrow? I don't know; it is uncertain as far as this world is concerned. But I am sure of something; if I do not squander my treasure in heaven through my lack of faith, it will be mine forever (1 Peter 1:4,5).

When Will Your Life End?
"You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:14b).

Another quandary for those who live without faith is not only the uncertainty of riches, but also the uncertainty of life itself. We are simply not here forever. In fact, relatively speaking, we are only here for a brief time.

Jesus once spoke a parable to warn His disciples against greed. The subject of His parable was "a certain rich man" who owned some very productive land. He died at the time in his life when he was about to take his ease due to his tremendous prosperity and live in luxury off his accumulated riches. His riches outlived him. Jesus concludes by saying that the man had been a fool and "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:13-21). That we will awake to see another tomorrow is only an assumption, and the day will come when it will be the wrong assumption.

The Arrogance of a Life Without God
"But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is sin." (James 4:16).

It is arrogance that would cause someone to leave God out of the plans of his life. It is as Pharaoh once said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?" The world may choose to exclude God from its plans. If so, it will suffer the consequences for that foolish, arrogant decision. But let not one who calls upon God as Father in prayer forget to include God in all the other aspects of his life. History is filled with examples of unrighteous men and women, their plans made without God, and the disasters and tragedies that followed (Ezekiel 28:2-10; Acts 12:21-23).

The Right Thing to Do
"Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that... Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:15, 17).

The right thing to do is to always keep God's purpose and will in our hearts. Our lives belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We are here to serve and glorify Him. Concerning the things with which He has blessed us, we are thankful; "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:4,5). Let the world be arrogant, but not the disciples of Jesus. The day will come when every human plan will fail and all human arrogance will melt away. But the righteous will abide forever.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 5.5; May 1998