The Christian man, woman, and child cannot compartmentalize God to certain segments of their lives; God requires our entire being and we must give our entire being to Him. Often a politician will state that he can separate his faith from his politics, but that goes against what we will see today. Politicians, however are not the only ones who say this though. To some degree we all have a sin problem dealing with contextualization. It may be in our computer, television, or movie viewing habits, our politics, our families, our careers, or any number of areas in our lives that we do not wish God to enter.
James wrote, “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,” (James 4.13, ESV).
He was writing to merchants of the day. It was the merchants who sought to make a living by going from this place and spending time there, and then moving on to spend time in another city, and so forth, constantly selling and trading. Often times this was a wealthy excursion. James isn’t prohibiting that at all. He isn’t downplaying the planning or condemning their hopes and dreams. And most likely, these merchants weren’t doing this on purpose. It wasn’t like they were saying, “Let’s do this, and God you have no business in this area.” No. It was more like they were doing what businessmen do. They simply were making plans, and it just never even occurred to them that they needed to think differently.
We see men and women of God doing both long-term and short-term planning in Scripture. Sometimes they are in line with God’s will and sometimes they aren’t. Joseph planned for the survival of Egypt and its neighboring people. Joshua planned attacks on various cities when the Hebrews were entering into Canaan. Paul planned to go to Asia, but in this case was stopped by the Holy Spirit. Planning is a good habit to develop.
Solomon wrote, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty,” (Proverbs 21.5, ESV).
This concept of planning ought to be part of our daily living, not simply in the short-term of what will my day look like, but in the long-term as well. It is not wrong to plan for the future, whether financial or familial, college or career, dating or disaster.
But here is the caveat: we must plan with the right perspective. We need to know and take to heart that we don’t know how long we have. Our plans need to be more than about us. They need to reach beyond our dreams, our pleasures, our passions. James wrote, “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,” (James 4:14, ESV).
Charles Spurgeon said, “Unless we purposely live with a view to the next world, we cannot make much out of our present existence,” (Spurgeon Study Bible). That’s the perspective we need. We need an eternal perspective. With that eternal perspective we can gain a very targeted planning strategy—one that puts eternity at its heart.
Buying a car or house, going to a certain college or trade school, and such will have eternal questions that need to be asked. We are but a vapor. We are but smoke. We won’t live long on this earth, and so we must take into account what we do with our lives. Will we live in and for the mist, or will we live in the mist, but for the moment the mist evaporates?
But then we need to go beyond the planning with the right perspective. We need to seek God’s permission. By that, I don’t mean that we audibly wait for God to say yes, but rather seek God’s will. Does God permit such a plan? Is it according to His will? “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,’” (James 4.15, ESV).
Every plan that we make, even if it is with the eternal perspective must be held with a soft grip. We cannot hold too tightly to our plans, because even with our eternal perspective, we don’t know God’s full game-plan.
These merchants were boastful about their plans. It wasn’t an excitement that they were displaying, but an arrogance. “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil,” (James 4.16, ESV). That’s a strange combination of words, “boasting in arrogance.” The idea of making temporal plans is arrogant, since we don’t know if we will be alive tomorrow, but then to go around and brag about how smart we are, having life figured out, when we have not considered eternity is foolish. It’s beyond foolish; it’s evil.
It probably at this point may sound like, what is the use in planning if at any moment God could change things? Planning with an eternal perspective changes how we think. It humbles us. It changes our faith. It changes our acts. It keeps us from compartmentalizing God out of areas in our lives. It displays our purpose.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin,” (James 4.17, ESV). This verse alone teaches a truth that simply states that if we know right and don’t do it, then we’ve sinned, no matter the circumstance. That is true and that is right. However, in the context, James was writing that we now know we are to plan all of our lives with an eternal perspective according to what God permits. We now know that we cannot compartmentalize God from certain areas of our lives.