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Author: Ron Graham

Hard to Hear God

James Rebukes Arrogance
—James 4:13-17

James's message is not against doing business, but against the arrogance of thinking you are in control of your life. God is in control, not you. He can allow your business to fail, and even your life to disappear, when you least expect it (James 4:13-17).

against arrogance

James 4:13-17

13 Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; 14whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' 16But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

17Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17 NKJV).

1 Do you have worldly business?

Perhaps you participate in some worldly enterprise and maybe you travel here and there. If you read James correctly, you will see that he is not against people being active in this world; but he does have serious concerns about the attitude of some.

Again, James is not against making a profit, so long as it is made honestly and without exploitation; and put to good use —in, for example, "visiting the orphans and widows in their afflictions." (James 1:27, 5:1-5).

James apparently knew of people who "have heaped up treasure" which they did by fraud and by keeping back the wages of their workers. Apparently they would even murder to gain profit (James 5:1-6 NKJV).

What James Condemned

James condemns this extreme greed and corruption, and we might wonder how anyone could sink so low. What happened initially that people ended up in this state?

The sin was not in the intention to travel and trade. It was in the attitude associated with their intention. And that was arrogance. James says, "You ought to say, 'If the Lord wills we shall do this or that' but now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:15-16NKJV).

It might not seem to be the height of arrogance. James might strike you as making a big deal out of a small boast. But the arrogance behind that boast grows and grows until it reaches extreme corruption.

So you may go into such and such a city and make a profit —nothing wrong with that, if you do it honestly, harmlessly, helpfully, and above all humbly, because "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6 NKJV).

Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation

Let me digress from James for a moment, to mention the king of Babylon and all Chaldea, centuries earlier, whose name was Nebuchadnezzar.

He was walking about the royal palace saying, "Is this not Babylon the Great, which I myself have built by the might of my power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:28-30).

Swiftly God told him that the kingdom was no longer his, and his residence was now among the beasts of the field. He would eat grass as oxen do, until he learned that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:31-33).

Now the second question is...

2 Do you control your life?

Whilst James is not condemning business as such, he is condemning the arrogance with which some were approaching their business. They said, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit" (James 4:13 NKJV).

They don't mention God. They speak as though they are in total control of their lives, and can have success in their own strength and on their own terms. (Except in scale, they are talking like Nebuchadnezzar aren't they? )

Wisdom From Above

This kind of thinking is wisdom which "does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic" (James 3:15 NKJV).

On the other hand, "the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17 NKJV).

That is the way to conduct your business and your dealings with people. But it is also the way to conduct your life in deference to God, "the One Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:12 NKJV).

James tells us that our lives are not under our control, whether or not we believe they are. If we yield to God’s will, and God’s control, we will not be deceived by demons into arrogance and hypocrisy.

Our final question is...

3 Will you see tomorrow?

James says, "You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is but a vapor..." (James 4:14 NKJV).

On that basis, James says, "You ought to say, 'If the Lord wills we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:15NKJV).

Many long years ago it was common to hear people say, "God willing..." They would say something like, "I'll see you tomorrow, God willing." When they wrote a letter, they would add the initials D.V. when saying they intend to do something. "I will visit you on Friday D.V." It stands for the Latin DEO VOLENTE which means "God willing".

Most people know their birthday, but nobody knows their deathday. You and I don't know if we will be alive tomorrow. You might say, "The chances are that I will be though". Don't be fooled and don't be arrogant. Whether you see tomorrow has nothing to do with chance or with your expectations; it's all about God’s will.

By all means make plans for the future, whether tomorrow or more distant, but always with the proviso "If God is willing", and avoid any spirit of arrogance.


Webservant Ron Graham

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