Letting God Worry About Tomorrow

James 4:13-17

Rev. Bryn MacPhail

You can blame it on our humanness, or you can blame it on our sinfulness--the reality is that we are creatures that worry .

We worry about many things--we worry about whether we look attractive enough, we worry about whether we have enough time to complete a project, and perhaps the most common worry--whether we have enough money .

Earlier in chapter 4, James warns us that "friendship with the world" means "hostility toward(s) God"(4:4). Here in verses 13-16 we learn a few of the ways we align ourselves with the world rather than to God.

James begins this by saying, "Come now, you who say 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit'".

Two things come to the surface here. James is addressing an audience that has a concern for the future and a concern for money .

Perhaps a qualification is necessary here. James is not calling us to be apathetic. He is not urging us to forsake all plans for the future. He is not telling us to avoid making any profit.

James, in his typical style, wants to put things in perspective for us. His readers are sure of their plans to travel and make money. So James responds by urging them to take a more humble approach. He reminds them that they "do not know what (their) life will be like tomorrow"(4:14).

It is acceptable, even admirable, to plan for the future, but James wants us to do so humbly . Because we really don't know what tomorrow has in store for us, we should not assume that what we have planned will come to pass. As the Book of Proverbs tells us, "The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps"(16:9).

To motivate us to be humble, James reminds us that we "are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away"(4:14).

What a startling statement! To help us gain a humble approach to planning, James reminds us how short our life span is . In comparison to the eternal unfolding of God's plans, our life is like "a vapor", "a mist", "a puff of smoke".

One analogy is to imagine a room filled with grains of salt. Picture this sanctuary filled top to bottom with salt. We would be unable to count the grains. This is eternity. Now picture a single grain of salt. This is our life on earth.

In comparison to eternity, our life is indeed "a vapor". It is no wonder that James wants to take our attention off of the world. It is no wonder that James doesn't want us to get all worked up about making money. Traveling, conducting business, making money--they seem so important now, but in the greater scheme of things they are "vapors" as well.

As Jesus said, "What will a man profit, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?"(Mt.16:26).

C.S. Lewis once commented that "Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us".

C.S. Lewis, like James, was pointing to the fact that we often chase "vapors". We kick and scratch to get some ground beef when filet mignon is being freely offered to us. That is why most individuals feel they never have enough. We feel that we never have enough because no amount of money , no amount of prestige , and no amount of pleasure can fill what Augustine calls, "a God-sized void" in our hearts.

The daily pursuit of God and His will should be our first concern--not money. Again, it is not that planning is bad. It is not that earning a profit is bad. The bottom line is, which is the greatest priority in your life? Your self-centred pursuits of earthly security? Or is God's will and righteousness your heart's greatest desire?

Jesus told His disciples that "the Gentiles" made material things their first priority(Mt.6:32). That is to say that the people of the world made the things of the world their first priority. But since we are the people of God, since we are the Body of Christ--Christ, and not the world, should be our first desire.

When the world is our first desire we show ourselves to be more like pagans than Christians. When the world is our first desire we show ourselves to be hypocritical "hearers" rather than faithful "doers of the Word"(1:22).

It is all a matter of priorities . Jesus said "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own"(Mt.6:33, 34).

How is it that "tomorrow will take care of itself"? Tomorrow will take care of itself because the Lord is in control (repeat). That is the answer James gives, "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'"(4:15).

I encourage you, of course, to make your plans for the future--and plan wisely--but don't forget your plans will unfold according to the will of the Lord. To disregard God's sovereign will is "arrogance", James tells us, as well as "evil"(4:16).

To give up control of your life may be a difficult thing. It may be THE most difficult thing to do. But this is the exhortation of James, and it is the exhortation of Christ also.
Living for yourself is the way of the world. But as Christians we are called to "not be conformed to this world"(Rom.12:2). We are not to live for ourselves. Even the care of our neighbour is secondary to the will of God. How would I sum up the will of God? Romans 8:29 does it for me: "to be conformed to the image of His Son". We are called to become like Christ .

And since our calling is to be like Christ, He and not the world, must be our greatest priority. Worldly pursuits and gains have their place, but their place is always secondary to the will of the Lord.

Keep in mind, my friends, that we are all "vapors". Keep in mind that the treasures of heaven are eternal while the treasures of the earth are not.

So let us resolve this day to "seek first His kingdom" and let God worry about tomorrow. Amen.