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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
The Bible does not condemn business acumen or future planning. What the Bible does condemn, however, is a prideful, self-centered way of thinking that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, leaves God out of our decisions and future plans—a mindset that assumes certainties that are never promised to us.
James confronts us in no uncertain terms with the reality of our finite knowledge and understanding. Indeed, he reminds us that we need to accept what we do not know. Do we want to be able to plan weeks and months in advance? Of course we do! But James points out that we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. It is pride that leads us to assume that our next breath is a given.
He then goes on to remind us of our frailty. The fact is that our lives are each “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Like an early-morning fog that hovers over the grass and is gone at the first touch of the sun’s rays, our lives are transient; eventually, they seemingly vanish, without even a trace left to be seen by future generations.
In light of our frailty and limitations, how are we then to think about the future? James not only calls out our presumptuous thinking and planning, he also supplies the antidote. Very simply, we need to learn to make plans in humility, recognizing our complete dependence on God’s providential care. Nothing in the entire universe—including us—would continue to exist for one fraction of a second apart from God. As Alec Motyer writes, “We receive another day not as a result of natural necessity, nor by mechanical law, nor by right, nor by the courtesy of nature, but by the covenanted mercies of God.”
Tomorrow is not promised. We may plan for it, but we may not assume we can control it. God’s mercy alone enables us to awaken to each new day. The sin of presumption is exposed as folly when we realize that our very life is grounded in God’s sustaining gifts. We cannot ignore our limitations and life’s brevity, but we can allow these realities to shape and transform our thinking and our decisions for the sake of His glory. So consider your plans for today, for tomorrow, for next year, and for further on in your life. Did you pray about them? Have you acknowledged that His plans are sovereign and that all of yours are contingent on His? Lift your plans up to Him now and place them in His hands. You cannot control the future. But you do not need to, for you know the one who does.
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.