“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13–14)
A new year, a new decade, and turning 50 in 2019 has me thinking more and more about time in general and the future in particular.
Some have suggested that this passage in James shows the futility of planning for the future. But I don’t think that’s the Apostle’s point. The problem with the capitalists he describes wasn’t their business plan, it was the fact that their business plan didn’t include God.
These entrepreneurs were living and planning as if there were no God. We may be able to foresee movement in the markets or make great plans for our futures, but being human has its limitations. James points out two for us here: 1) we’re unable to know the future; and 2) we’re unable to guarantee life.
And since these two facts are true, we must learn to plan with God’s leading. We don’t know the future – only God does. You may have a fifty-year lease on property, but not a fifty-minute lease on life. We simply don’t know what tomorrow may bring. James says we are like atmis – steam or vapor. If the wind blows, it dissipates. If the sun rises, it burns off.
The psalmist said it this way, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. (Psalm 39:4-6)
So, where is the line between presumption and planning, between faith and fatalism? James continues, “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)
Don’t stop making exciting plans for the future! The key is finding God’s will in these dreams. That means as you plan, acknowledge your dependence on God. I encourage you to pray as you plan. Read the scriptures as you plan. Get wise counsel when necessary. But throughout the process, put God first. Then, I believe, you can know the Lord’s will for you and your family as you head in the future.
I’ll see you in church!
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit www.newlifedenton.org for more information or www.drjimmann.com.