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 and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. James 4:13-17 NIV
In this section of scripture James is addressing an issue that was getting out of hand. For the most part he is addressing businessmen, more than likely Christians, since verse 17 seems to suggest that the readers know that their practice is wrong. This is not pointing to an isolated incident, but a recurring problem.
Business travel in the first century was very common, and Jews especially, travelled widely for business purposes. New Testament examples are Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2, 18; Romans 16:3) and Lydia (Acts 16:14). Notice the plan here: (1) “go to this or that city” (2) “spend a year there” (3)”carry on business” (4) “make money”. The starting time is arranged, the city has been selected, and the goal is to make money. But, where is God in the plan?
No allowance is made for unforseen circumstances. We don’t know all that will meet us in our life journey. That’s why it’s important to include God in the plan. They had planned as if they knew exactly what the future holds. We must subject our plans to Gods’ will, and not expect God to change his will to fit our plans. To make plans without considering Gods’ will is the same thing as arrogantly claiming to be in full command of the future. The original Greek text literally means, ” You are boasting in your arrogant pretensions”. Verse 17 stresses a very important point; it is like saying, “Now that I have pointed the matter out to you, you have no excuses.” Knowing what should be done obligates a person to do it.