Thursday, February 15, 2024

2024.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ James 4:13–17

Read James 4:13–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What do the people addressed in James 4:13 say to themselves? Why are such self-assured plans silly—what don’t they know (James 4:14a)? How weighty and long is their life in this world (verse 14b)? What ought they to say instead (James 4:15)? Since they are not, in what are they actually boasting (James 4:16)? In what should they be spending their lives (James 4:17)? 

In what should a man spend his life? James 4:13–17 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a man should spend his life in that which does good before God.

How dreadful a thing is our pride (James 4:16)! It makes us judges of God’s law and of our brother (cf. James 4:11) and leads us into living for earthly/worldly profit (James 4:13). Notice that buying and selling and profiting are not the evil here. The passage highlights several evils about the approach in this hypothetical situation.

Assuming that our life is under our control, James 4:14a. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. There are many plans that we might make that serve God, enjoy Him, and do others good. But, we mustn’t make plans as if we have power in ourselves to bring them about. We don’t know about tomorrow.

Attributing too much to our life in this world, James 4:14b. Our lives in this world are light (“vapor”) and momentary (“a little time and then vanishes away”). We do not resolve this by assuring us of how great our impact may be. 

Attributing too little to what the Lord wills, James 4:15. Rather, we trust that what is weighty and lasting is not a man’s accomplishments (James 4:13-14) but the Lord’s will. Apart from His will, we won’t even be alive tomorrow! If the Lord wills, we will continue to live. If the Lord wills, He will establish and employ our lives’ work in a lasting way. The way of thinking in James 4:13 is completely ignorant of this. It boasts in one’s own work, rather than giving itself to humble diligence in whatever part the Lord wills to give us in His own work.

Assessing what to do by what pleases us, James 4:17. Often, James 4:17 is taken in isolation. Its principle does stand on its own, but it is also for us to heed it in the context of James 4:13. It reveals one last thing about the error in verse 13: this buying and selling and profiting was not because it was good, but rather instead of some other good that ought to have been done. 

We live in a culture in which much that God says is good is set aside for the purpose of profit: marriage, children, living where there is a faithful church, participating well in the life of that church, doing spiritual or temporal good to our brother or our neighbor, etc. 

But it is foolish for those whose lives are short vapors to live for profit. God’s Word establishes priorities that should shape our choices. It overrules what our flesh calls good with what His Word calls good. And if we know the good to do it, but do not do it, that indeed is sin.

What plans do you have? What is your hope for accomplishing them? What gives them lasting significance? How have these plans proceeded from what the Bible teaches you is good?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for the arrogance of living for earthly profit over-against what Your Word teaches us is good. And forgive us for thinking that we can bring about whatever future we wish. Truly, Your will, O Lord, rules and determines all that will happen. Your will gives to us our very life. Forgive us, and restore us to trusting in You, delighting in You and serving You, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

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