In James 4:1-12, Jesus’ half-brother describes what happens when we adopt the world’s value system: we make enemies on two fronts. We quarrel with each other, and we quarrel with God. In James 4:13-17, James expands the implications of adopting the world’s value system, which is flawed primarily because it leaves God out of the picture. For all practical purposes, man becomes God. We behave as though we are accountable only to ourselves, like actors playing a role that masks our true identity. James outlines what this looks like in everyday life: We play God when our planning excludes Him. When it comes to decision-making, we often operate as though we are the center of the universe, reflecting a mindset where self and this temporary life are central. Yes, this life is important, but the Bible teaches that we can’t live it properly unless it is viewed in light of the eternity. In verses 13-17, James warns against a secular mindset that encompasses at least three factors:
 Planning that leaves God out of the picture. As Christians, we have a different set of values to consider when making decisions. Our priorities should reflect Biblical priorities; our decisions, Biblical principles. We need to bring God into our decision-making, whether it is at work, church, or home (see Proverbs 16:3 and 19:21).
 Love of money. Money can be either a tool or an idol; it all has to do with perspective. Material things were never meant to satisfy the human soul. Only God can do that. But money can have a powerful attraction in our lives. What are the warning signs of money becoming an idol in one’s life? Ask yourself: “Do I frequently find myself desiring what others have? Am I discontent with, or resentful of others good fortune?” and “Do I sometimes compromise my integrity to increase my take- home pay?” and “Do I engage in compulsive buying?” and “Do I sacrifice relationships or other God-given responsibilities to earn more money?” Wealth is fleeting. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. But God will never leave you. He alone is trustworthy (see Hebrews 13:5-6).
 Thinking that you can secure your own future through financial planning. Working hard and planning diligently do not guarantee financial success. Ultimately, God is our provider. He wants our trust to be in Him, not in our planning, employer, or savings account (see Deuteronomy 8:17-18 and 1 Chronicles 29:12-13). We play God when we ignore our limitations. As much as we would like to be God, we are unqualified for the job because we have divinely engineered limitations. It makes sense to bring God into our planning. We need His wisdom. The Bible is filled with principles that relate to work, money, and ethics.
In light of all this, James asserts the foolishness of planning apart from God. To do so ignores our many limitations:
- We have no knowledge of tomorrow (v. 14a). To use theological language, we lack that quality called omniscience (all-knowing). We also lack omnipotence: Even if we knew what tomorrow would bring, we have limited capacity to do anything about it!
- We have no assurance of a long life (v14b). We can make all the plans we want, but if God doesn’t give us breath, we can’t carry out those plans. Every day we read in the paper about someone whose life was snuffed out, seemingly before his time. The truth is, we have no guarantee of tomorrow.
- We have no right to ignore God’s will (v. 15). We are not autonomous. We are morally responsible beings and we are accountable to God for our decisions. The attitude of our hearts should be, “If it is the Lord’s will, I will do this or that.”
We need to allow God to be God. We must not ignore him as we make our plans, and we must not ignore our limitations.
We are finite human beings. We are not equipped to play God. None of us can fill those shoes.
Application / Challenge
Prayerfully acknowledge God in your planning by using the questions found in this week’s “Digging Deeper in Your Daily Quiet Time”.