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James 4: “Evil” Planning

Series: James on Work
Devotional: 4 of 5
Published: March 11, 2019

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. 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 in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

Busy professionals love to plan. We meticulously plan out our days and weeks. Some of us even plan out our careers five years at a time. Planning is a good thing, as it is the process by which we steward the time, money, and other resources the Lord has entrusted us with. But as James 4:13-16 points out, our planning is “evil” and dishonoring to the Lord when we plan without humbly recognizing that it is the Lord—not us—who is in control of the outcomes of our planning.

This is an especially hard truth for busy professionals to grasp and remember day-to-day, as so much of our time is spent planning for the future. We spend weeks putting together strategic plans. We sell investors and customers on visions of the future. We set-up meetings and appointments weeks and months in advance. With so much confident planning, it can be easy to fall for the lie that we are the ones controlling the future. But as James reminds us, this type of planning is better known as “boasting” and “evil.” Why? Because when we confidently predict the future without even a mention of God’s sovereignty, we are sending a message to ourselves and those around us that we are not truly trusting in the Lord’s grace and daily provisions. We are relying solely on ourselves and our plans for the future.

Planning without recognizing the Lord’s sovereignty can also cause us to forget to be on the lookout for where the Lord might be moving to take our plans in different directions. The Christian professional who humbly submits their plans to the Lord and watches for the Holy Spirit to mold them over time will be more at peace, more aligned with God’s design for their lives, and even more effective.

Finally, in verse 14 James reminds us of the brevity of life, comparing our time on earth to “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” This sobering reminder gives us all the more reason to plan, but to do so by humbly recognizing the Lord’s ultimate control and being willing to surrender our plans to the Lord’s will.

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