(Could you please explain James 4:17?) Bible Question
“Could you please explain James 4:17?”
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.
– James 4:13 – 17 (New American Standard Bible)
James is warning us about the careless attitude of business and daily life. While we make plans for a grand future, life can change in a moment. Death, illness, unemployment, foreclosure, etc. can catch any one of us. We should not be so sure of ourselves that we think we can make tomorrow or next year exactly what we want them to be. Instead, we are to be humble, relying on God and counting on Him to sustain us, regardless of the unexpected turns in life.
In this context, James want us to keep our priorities straight. Since we do not know what tomorrow will bring (let alone next year), we should busy ourselves with doing what is good. To let our focus drift to mundane things instead of the important things is wrong; it is sin. In simple terms, James (as he does throughout his letter) is pushing us to keep our loyalty to God in place. God is our priority.