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.
In order to understand this passage, you need to see the assumptions that James is making. He’s speaking to believers who have no care about God’s will for their life. How do I know this?
First of all, they say “we will” go there, we will buy and sell, and we will make money. They’re saying all of this without ever knowing what’s really going to happen. They didn’t go on this trip because they felt the Lord impressing them to go. It was all about their desire.
This is clear from the next verses.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence. That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF confidence. When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.
One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek. There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize. I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”
It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do. If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led of the Holy Spirit.
I think that makes more sense in light of the last sentence in the above passage. I don’t believe that James is just adding some random thought about doing good. It’s all a part of the same exhortation.
You need to know that you’re in the center of God’s will. Of course, that’s why many choose not to seek God’s will. They’re afraid that it won’t agree with what they want to do.
Once you’ve spent the time and effort to know God’s plan for your life, you can’t simply ignore it. The Holy Spirit would continue to remind you and draw to complete your calling. Some people feel that it’s better just to do what they want and never ask God.
Many people make doing their own thing sound holy. They say, “I’m going to do this, God willing.” What they mean is, “This is what I want to do and I hope God doesn’t stop me from doing it.” At least that’s what I meant when I used to say that.
The key is that we need to know what God wants us to do before we start doing it. If God wants it accomplished, then it’s blessed without me even asking for a blessing. If it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed no matter how hard I pray for it.
Spend quality time in God’s presence. In that way you’ll know that what you’re doing is of God. You can then walk in the assurance that everything you put your hand to will be blessed.
Question: What has the Lord called you to accomplish for Him?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017