Arrogance / Humility
Slide 1: Title
Welcome | Pray
There is a common phrase around here I’ve heard all my life.
You’ll recognize it: “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”
My parents say it, my grandparents say it, your family probably says it, you probably say it, and I find myself saying it now and again. Oftentimes I say it a bit jokingly, or with a smirk on my face, and twist it around.
There are a lot of old sayings we hear and use all the time without having any idea where they come from.
This is a common phrase in our lives because the very fabric and foundations of our country and our culture are built on the Lord’s Word, and as you’ll see today in our passage, this phrase we hear most commonly from elderly saints, is more than just an old saying, it’s a biblical and humble outlook on life.
As we get to the back half of James 4, he pivots away from wisdom and godliness to write about the sins of the wealthy, the first of which concludes that God is sovereign, and he achieves this by showing us that making plans without first consulting God is both presumptuous and arrogant.
Please follow along with me in your Bibles or on the screen.
Slides 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: James 4:13-17
James 4:13–17 ESV
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”— 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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Slide 7: Title
All throughout this letter, James likes to get our attention with his new thoughts in different ways:
· Sometimes he asks a pointed question that catches us off guard like, “Whoa, did he really just ask that...”
· Sometimes he uses titles to draw us in remind us he’s on our side such as, “My brothers and sisters, or friends,”
· but here he says, “Come now!”
“Come now.” Like, “C’mon man, I have a word for you, listen up, men.”
It’s aimed at getting the audience’s attention heading into a serious discussion.
James isn’t playing games, he sees a problem in the attitude of the believers and he’s here, as all good Christian teachers are, to correct with truth, yet lovingly guide with grace in wisdom.
Apparently this is very important.
Some people in this congregation, probably wealthy merchants, have been making plans in their business that don’t appear to be evil or bad in anyway, in fact it appears to make business sense. They’re planning and strategizing.
On the surface we see good business sense.
You may not know this about me, but business is in my blood.
My father is the owner-operator of his business. Both my grandfather’s owned and operated businesses. In fact, one of my grandpas was self-employed his entire life. He never once took home a paycheck from someone else.
My bachelor’s degree is in Marketing. That’s the business degree I got from a small Christian university.
I don’t come from a long line of pastors, I come from a long line of Christian business owners. Selling candy in H.S. study hall as fundraiser.
Strategy is an important component of running a business. The first step of any new business venture is to write a business plan.
That’s doing the homework of analyzing the market before investing much time or money. What do I want to sell? How does that product or service fill a need in the marketplace?
Basically, what is the mission of my business, what needs to be in place to pull it off, and what are my goals and expectations for the business?
It’s good to have goals. Our economy was built and is sustained by ambitious business owners and entrepreneurs. None of these things are bad. I love it, some days I miss it, so I incorporate some of it into my role at the church.
Let’s look again at what they’re doing to understand what the problem is and look for parallels for us today:
Slide 8: James 4:13
James 4:13 ESV
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”—Again, these are wealthy, ambitious merchants, nothing wrong with that. Where James takes issue is they’re making some assumptions.
They are assuming:
• They’ll be alive when they head out tomorrow
• They’ll be survive the journey and be alive to arrive in such and such a town
• They’ll be welcomed by the locals for a year (alive for a year)
• The locals will trade with them, that they’re goods are needed there
• They’ll make a profit
For those of you who run businesses or go on sales routes, wouldn’t it be awesome if business actually worked this way? This easy?
“Tomorrow morning I’m going to drive down to Pittsburgh, put a sign out on the street, sell a thousand candy bars and drive home with a $1,000 profit in my pocket.”
These businessmen have decided when they’re leaving, where they’re going, how long they’ll be there, what they’ll do there, and even what the outcome will be - and to boot they’ve decided they’ll survive the journey.
James condemns planning our future in that way. Why? Because when we do that we’re acting as though we alone determine the course of our lives, apart from God. It is an arrogant self-confidence that elevates us above God.
Proverbs 27:1 says it like this:
Slide 9: Proverbs 27:1
Proverbs 27:1 ESV
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
James takes it one step further:
Slide 10: James 4:14
James 4:14 ESV
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.
Once again, I love how James is quick to humble us as he looks at us, like, “Hey, you up there! You think you’re the man? You think you’re the focal point of life, huh? You think you’re cat’s meow and we’re all orbiting around you and even God’s supposed to bow down to you? Think again buddy. Let me show you what you are: Mist.”
This is one of the harsh realities of our lives we don’t like to talk about.
How encouraging is this? What is your life? A mist. It’s here and it’s gone. I can’t grab it. I can’t hold it in my hand and save it for later. I see it for a second and it’s gone. Our life is like a breath. Here for a moment and gone.
Life is short no matter how many years we live, and we’ve got to recognize that not only do we not have control over tomorrow, but we don’t have the promise of tomorrow.
We’re promised today, so wake up and say, “Thank you, Lord, for today, I will live it serving you.” And the whole days not even a guarantee. And yet we live and plan without consulting God, as if we have complete say in how many days we have.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable that’s commonly referred to as the parable of the rich fool.
Slides 11, 12, 13, 14, 15: Luke 12:16-20
Luke 12:16–20 ESV
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
• George’s colleague’s story: Shoestring budget, whole world in his hand at retirement, died 6 months later.
It’s arrogant and foolish to make our plans and boast of our plans without consulting God. There is no guarantee of life, and there is no point in making plans as though God does not exist because the future is in his hands – whether you believe in him or not.
Slide 16: James 4:15
James 4:15 ESV
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
That’s the prayer and attitude of a humble follower of Jesus as he writes his business plan and schedules his sales calls and prepares his sales pitch and handles all his affairs with honest integrity.
That’s the prayer and attitude of a humble follower of Jesus as she graduates from high school and considers a career and a school and a spouse.
That’s the prayer and attitude of a parent as they consider their hopes and dreams for raising a family. I often tell Kinsley I want 4 kids and she patiently reminds me, one at a time, we’ll see what God has in store for us.
We’re taught in scripture to plan and build and save like the wise man: humbly, with God in mind. To plan like we’ll live forever, but live fully at peace knowing God may call us home at any moment.
The beginning of a good plan with God at the center is to ask: What would I like to be doing ten years from now, one year from now, tomorrow…and how will I react if God steps in and rearranges my plans? Humbly or arrogantly? Angrily or peaceably? If my future is nothing like I decide, am I cool with it?
We can plan, please don’t hear that you can’t, we must plan, plan your life ambitiously, but with God’s will in mind. Meaning, within the belief that God’s sovereign will still determines much of your future as you follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Yet, we’ve got to hold our plans loosely and keep God at the center of our planning, remembering that he has authority over life and death, but he’ll never disappoint.
The Apostle Paul lived in tune with the Holy Spirit, even at one point being prevented by the Spirit from ministering in Asia. You remember Paul, he wrote most of the NT.
At one point on his missionary journey’s, he was reasoning with the Jews, basically preaching a persuasive Christian message and probably dialogue as well, and this happens, a great example of planning your life with God’s will in mind:
Slide 17: Acts 18:20-21
Acts 18:20–21 ESV
When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
“Hey buddy, stick around, we’re intrigued by your message.”
“Nah, man, I’ve got to get over to Ephesus, God’s leading me that way, but no worries, if the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be back.”
Slide 18: Title
This is the humble approach to making plans according to the will of God.
Certainly Paul would have loved to return to Ephesus to be with those men. He loved spreading the good news of Christ’s cross. He was hand-picked by God to defend it and proclaim it to the non-Jews.
And he loved all the believers in all the churches he planted. He prayed for them and thought about them from inside dark, cold prison cells frequently.
He loved serving the Lord within the Lord’s will, yet this is also the guy who said in his letter to the church in Phillip, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Because he knew that even though he loved serving Christ in this life and heaven was a reward to look forward to, he knew he was a servant God had on a timetable.
Paul had the presence of mind and humility in his planning to trust God with the details and the outcome. If meeting death before I get back is God’s will, so be it. But he served God with passion until his dying day.
Instead of acting like we’ve got control of tomorrow, let’s get into the habit of saying, “If the Lord wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or we’ll do that.”
Let’s not be deceived into thinking we’ve got lots of remaining time to live for Christ, or to enjoy our family, or to do what we want to do or know we should do. Let’s live for God today. Then, no matter when life ends, we can have the peace of knowing we’ve fulfilled God’s plans.
That’s the only plan worth boasting about.
James wraps this section up in what seems to be an odd way, that to ambitiously make plans without consulting God isn’t just evil, it isn’t just arrogance, it isn’t just boasting, he actually calls it sin.
Slide 19: James 4:17
James 4:17 ESV
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
It’s not just a random thought tossed in there at the end, it’s the conclusion of his remarks.
We tend to think that doing something wrong is sin. But James tells us that sin is also not doing right. These two kinds of sins are sometimes called sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins we commit and sins we omit.
• It’s a sin to lie; and it can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it.
• It’s a sin to speak evil of someone; and it’s also a sin to avoid that person when you know she needs your friendship. We should be willing to help as the Holy Spirit guides us.
If God had directed you to restore a relationship, the right thing to do is do it, the wrong thing to do is ignore God’s direction.
It’s evil and sinful to know the right thing to do and not do it.
In the same way, now that we know the truth, assuming God will give us tomorrow and planning as if he’s promised us tomorrow and planning without his consideration, it’s sinful.
So, as you plan your life from the big stuff to the small stuff, are you including God in your plans?
Are you remembering, Lord willing as you build your businesses, choose your careers, choose your schools, plan for retirement?
Are you remembering, Lord willing as you plan your evenings and your weekends and your vacations?
Humbly invite him into everything you do, so that if it comes to an end, you’ll have lived according to his plans over top of your own.
As we mature in our following of Jesus, I urge you as James urges us to humbly view all our days under the sovereignty of God’s will.
This is what I want. This is how I plan to get there. This is my plan for success. And I’ll get there, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll get there.