13 Come now, 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"-
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.
15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. - James 4:13-17
While this passage may seem unattached to the other paragraphs in chapter 4, they really are connected. In this chapter, James is trying to address the reasons we end up in conflict with others in our life, and that reason can also be found in this last passage. Our own self-importance.
Every day, we make plans to which we attach our hopes and dreams. We look for those things that bring us satisfaction or joy. It may be our jobs, our homes, our friendships, our hobbies, our reputation, our children. Something in our life gives us meaning, so we invest in it and our happiness gets attached to it. Our identity gets so wrapped up in this thing that it’s how we introduce ourselves - I am a teacher, or I am a mother of three. We know we’ve attached our hopes to these things because when something upsets the thing we’ve placed our hope in, our world is rocked. When we lose our job, when our children make poor decisions, when our reputation gets damaged, when our marriage struggles - it feels as if our world is crashing down. We begin to despair and we don’t know how we’re going to continue. Our hope is lost.
When our hope is threatened, we enter into conflict with others. We have expectations and plans for how our life is supposed to be, and when something interferes with those plans, we begin to rage. Those are the passions that are at war within us, and those are the things we fight and quarrel with others over. Perhaps we placed our hope in our children, and now they’re making poor decisions as a young adult, so we chase after them, trying to get back on our game plan for their life and they resist. We fight and quarrel about what we think they should be doing with their lives. Perhaps we had an idealistic vision for how our marriage was supposed to work, and our spouse is not living up to what we expect of them, so we begin to demand they adhere to our plan or treat us in a specific way. We fight and quarrel because they are not who we expected them to be.
It’s all so incredibly self-focused and arrogant. What we don’t deserve is to draw another breath on this planet, and what we do deserve is eternal damnation for the condition of our souls. But He gives us a greater grace and allows us to live. Not only for today, but for eternity. Humble yourself to that truth, lay down your idea about how life should go, and simply be eternally grateful for where he has placed you.
When we put our hope in horizontal things - in the things of this world, we will eventually end up in this place of despair. Our hope is in Him alone. He is where we find that satisfaction and joy we’ve been looking for.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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