Making Plans | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/4

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

James 4:13-5:6

Is James telling us we can’t make plans for the future? It’s really difficult for many of us today not to do so. Secondary school students need to make plans for their tertiery studies. Undergraduates need to make plans for their career. Couples need to make plans for their family. Planning for the future is what most of us have to do so that we can have some direction in life. James isn’t speaking against that. Most Christian back then were of the peasantry and so didn’t travel much, have much options in life, or possess much liberty to make grand future plans. Life for them was mostly hand to mouth. James wasn’t addressing them in particular. Instead, he was addressing rich Christian merchants who travel from town to town to make money and had a presumptuous attitude toward life. They were seeking only to accumulate more wealth for themselves while overconfident in their abilities and riches. Due to their arrogance, they failed to perceive that life is precarious, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” and were boastful and lacking a fear of the Lord.

James drives home the point that nobody can know their future and all plans must ultimately be contingent to the vicissitudes of life; death can come like a thief in the night to bring the best of our well-thought plans to naught. Therefore, it’s good to acknowledge our frailty in humility before the Lord and recognise that our lives are in his hands and find their limits in his sovereign will. So it’s meet and right to make plans for the future, but memento mori (remember you have to die). Acknowledge the sovereignty of God! May the Lord “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90.12).

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