“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” James 4:13-15
The apostle James wrote his epistle to Jewish believers that were scattered due to persecution (James 1:1). As the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18-19), he was now writing to his “former parishioners,” in order to give them wisdom, as well as correction. This can be seen throughout his letter (e.g. 1:5,19, 22; 2: 3, 20; 3:1, 2; 4:11; 5:1-6). It was also James’ desire to reach those who were arrogant enough to believe that their own efforts were the sole reason for achieving success in life (4:13-15). In fact, those verses point to the underlying boastful arrogance of the people that James was largely addressing, is wealth. To be sure, the people James chastises in 4:13–17 are never said to be rich; but by the travel plans they were making and desire to “make money” suggest that very thing. James chastises them for failing to look at life from a Christian perspective (v. 14), urging them to acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty and providence as they make their plans (v. 15). Just as in James’ time, we find a worldview today that largely leaves God out of the equation, marked by boastful self-reliance.
As Christians, we know better. Yet we are fearful because things are happening outside of our control. If anything, this is a reminder that in ourselves, we never had control. As we are seeing right before our very own eyes, no amount of wealth, self-confidence or even human ingenuity can prevent what we are now facing or a bevy of other disasters from occurring.
For the record, God is not condemning wise business (and life) planning. But rather planning that leaves God out the picture. It is simple really, the beloved apostle and half-brother of our Lord says to add a qualifying statement to all our planning: “If it is the Lord’s will.” Know it is God that not only helps us in our plans but gives us the wisdom and perseverance to carry them out.
So a note to both planners (and everyone else)— the world has changed. If you’re asking for how long, that is yet to be determined. Maybe an even further-reaching question is whether or not there will be some permanent change due to this global pandemic. I hope so. By that, I mean all the good that can come out of this. Quality family time that was otherwise missing from your busy schedules. Time to have a meaningful conversation (how many streaming shows can we watch, really)? Long walks with your spouse and kids. And, a profoundly deeper walk with your Lord.
A resetting of our world indeed, one heart at a time.
Pastor Joe Garofalo