James 4:13-14 says:
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.
Look at 4:13, you got to love how the Bible treats those who read it don’t you? It isn’t scared if you disagree with it. 4:13 is an invitation to those who are not acting like they ought to. James doesn’t step softly here, he directly addresses them and calls them out for their mistaken ways. Good leaders always act in the same manner, they cause us to seriously reflect on our words and our ways so that we may see the sins we are so apt to commit. Once he calls them out he begins to rebuke this group of what appears to be wealthy businessmen for making plans in the wrong way. Why do you say, “Today or tomorrow we will into such and such a town and spend a year there to trade and make (literally in Greek) gain?” Why do you say such things? Do you know what tomorrow will bring? Do you not know that your very life is a mere mist, a smoke, or a vapor that vanishes as quickly as it appeared? These people thought they could hold a whole year of their lives in their own hands and plan completely free of any outside influence while James reminds them that because they are a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow, realistically they cannot even hold a single moment in their hands. We’re the same. Where in the Bible are we promised life for years to come?
Jesus advised us in Matthew 6:34 saying, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This was precisely what these men were not doing. The primary concern for these businessman was only tomorrow not today. They had great and lofty visions in their minds of what they were to do, who they were to be, and what they’re business will look like one day, while truthfully they can’t be sure of any of these things they promise to themselves or others. They had forgotten that they were only men. They had forgotten to take God and His plans into account, and their planning showed that. Has yours?
Many modern day businessmen are similar, and I’d even say that you and I aren’t so different in planning our own lives. We think we’ll do this or that, live here or there, make this much, have these kinds of friends, drive these kinds of cars, and spend vacations at these kinds of spots. How foolish are we to think that our plans will have any surety/success? James is telling us that the brevity of our lives ought to change the course of how we live our lives. Will you care in the end of all things what car you drove? What house you lived in? Where you vacationed? How much money you made? No, in the end of all things you’ll only be enthralled to see Christ face to face or terrified of His judgment. 1 Peter 1:24-25 quoting Isaiah 40:6-8 says, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” We all know this don’t we? Haven’t we all seen the truth that regardless of what we plan that it doesn’t usually go the way we plan? What always ends up happening is God. His plan and His rule and reign over all of our life and He brings us to places we never even imagined we be at. This is why all over Proverbs you’ll find verses like this: 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We could read Proverbs 16:33, 19:21, 20:24, 21:1, 21:30-31 and come up with the exact same conclusion.
Now before you make the wrong conclusion from this, hear that God is not against planning or making a profit in business. Even more, God is not condemning planning. He criticizes/condemns people for their presumptuous pride; for arrogantly thinking that we know what the future holds. Planning is good, but ultimately God’s plans stand, not ours. In other words, what happens in life comes from God’s wisdom. We plan but God decides. We propose but God disposes. We mark out a path but it is God who establishes our ways. So do plan. Don’t be afraid to plan the size of your families, but know its God who opens or closes the womb. Do go to college and get an education, choose a career, but know that its God who will govern the definition and the direction of your career. All you young unmarried folks should be keeping your eyes open for a godly spouse, but know its God who brings that someone into your life or gives you the strength to be single. Do plan for retirement, save money, be wise with investments, but know that your financial future is firmly fitted in God’s hands, not your own.
Detailed planning is a part of being a responsible adult. It is fools who plunge ahead arrogantly without any serious consideration. These rash and presumptuous businessmen were arrogant in their planning and plotting for one reason – God was not in the equation.