Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
Bible study material on James 4:13-17
Text: James 4:13-17 – NIV
3Now 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.” 14Why, 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. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the LORD’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
James 4:13-17 focuses on James’ warning against presuming on tomorrow. James cautions against making future plans without a proper sense of the uncertainty of life and absolute dependence on God. To James, all plans are wrong if they are made without God. Three major perspectives to consider, therefore, in developing a proper perspective to life could be identified in James 4:13-17. First is the recognition that life is brief. The second perspective is the realization that death is certain and the third is the understanding that God is sovereign.
Life is brief
To James, to live right, we must realize that life is short. Life is like a vapour. It is most likely that James had his inspiration from Isaiah 40:6-8.
A voice says, “Cry out” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
Recognizing that life is short like a vapour invites us unto a life of humility and simplicity.
Death is certain
To James, life appears for a little while and soon vanishes away. To live right, therefore, we need to recognise the certainty of death. For dwjjdwjj no nyinaa no nko si hwee (a life of arrogance has no benefit). This perspective serves as an exhortation to desist from all forms of boasting (Proverbs 27:1). To James, therefore, we do not know what tomorrow holds. Meanwhile, we are to be conscious that we are passing away by and by.
God is sovereign
To live right calls for the realisation that God is sovereign. Instead of boasting about tomorrow, James says we ought to say if God wills, we will live and work and prosper. Acknowledging the sovereignty of God makes a difference in the way we live. If we live with the consciousness that God in his sovereignty has our lives and our plans in his hands, we will not walk in bitterness.
In today’s studies on James 4:13-17, James invites us to have a proper perspective to life by recognizing that life is short, death is certain, and that God is sovereign. These perspectives to life are very helpful in developing a very good intra- and interpersonal relationships. For they serve as essential orientation to a life of simplicity, love and contentment. Most, importantly, therefore, James cautions us against the habit of planning our lives and daily activities without God.
1. How does the perspective that life is brief orient you towards financial giving in the church and society?
2. The sovereignty of God implies that we are to live a life of contentment and a life free from bitterness and unforgiveness. Discuss.
3. State three ways in which we can involve God in our planning.