In James 4:13-17, we gain valuable insight on what to do to wisely plan for the future.

  1. 13 Come now (“Now listen”), 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”—By all appearances (4:13-17), James is speaking to the wealthy landowners and merchants within the Christian community who boasted of their profits and power. In 5:1-6, James will go into greater detail rebuking the greedy rich. Trade and make a profit—James isn’t saying it’s wrong to plan ahead. He’s saying it’s wrong to exclude God when making plans for the future. Moreover, James calls out the desire to make money at any cost. Such greed blinds a person from listening to God and caring for those around them. Theology of Work Commentary, “James’s words should make Christians more aware of the need to continually reassess, adapt, and adjust. Our plans should be flexible and our execution responsive to changing conditions. In one sense, this is simply good business practice. Yet in a deeper sense, it is a spiritual matter, for we need to respond not only to market conditions but also to God’s leading in our work. This brings us back to James’s exhortation to listen with deep attention. Christian leadership consists not in forcing others to comply with our plans and actions, but in adapting ourselves to God’s word and God’s unfolding guidance in our lives.”
    1. 14 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 is referencing Pro. 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring.” Only God, who is omniscient, knows the future. What is your life—Not only is the future uncertain by life itself is uncertain. Mist that appears—This is a phrase describing the transitory nature of life in the OT: “breath” (Job 7:7, 16); “cloud” (Job 7:9); “handbreadths” “mere breath” “shadow” (Ps. 39:5-6); “evening shadow” (Ps. 102:11). Hosea 13:3, “Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window.”
  2. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast (brag; vainglory) in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. The focus of a Christian is to know and do the will of God. You boast in your arrogance—Bragging about your successes before they happen is arrogant and evil. An example of a person who boasted in himself is the rich ruler in Lk. 12:13-21.
  3. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James ends this section warning the church not to ignore what he has said to them. knows the right thing—Sin is not only actively committing acts forbidden by God (sins of “commission”) but sin is also not committing to doing something God calls you to do (sins of “omission”). The rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), one of Jesus’s most memorable teachings, is an example of sins of omission.
    1. Proverbs 3:27-28, Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.