Three Planning Problems
Planning is simply thinking ahead, and there is nothing wrong with that. The Bible commends it (Proverbs 21:5). Some of us would do well to take a longer-term view of our education, jobs, finances, relationships, conduct, etc., instead of being so shortsighted.
James was concerned, however, when he observed the plans of some in his day. He cautioned: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:13-17).
What James noticed was . . .
The planner included the time, the place, the activity, even the outcome. What he did not include was God. His will and His involvement were nowhere in the conversation.
Proper planning centers on God’s will. No matter what else we accomplish, if we fail to serve Him we have failed miserably at life (Matthew 16:26). Right planning also acknowledges the essentiality of God’s blessing in every effort. Life is uncertain. We do not know what a day may bring (Proverbs 27:1). “If the Lord wills” must be our spirit.
James says planning that is based solely on our wisdom and efforts reflects arrogance. His language is strong; it actually points to people who take pride in their arrogant ways!
Pride itself is sinful, and it leads to numerous problems. It makes it hard for us to accept instruction, advice, or warnings. It makes us careless about potential dangers (1 Corinthians 10:12). It makes it hard for us to admit wrong. And obviously, it balks at humbling ourselves before God.
The last sentence in this paragraph certainly applies to proper planning: knowing that we must plan centering on the Lord’s will and failing to do so is sin. The principle, however, is capable of broad application. Anytime our plans or activities do not include those things we know God wants us to be doing, we sin by omitting them. Both our plans and our execution must be full of God-prescribed activity.