God’s Word for You
James 4:13-14a What tomorrow will bring
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, August 20, 2020
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit”—14 you who do not know what tomorrow will bring.
We get our word emporium from the Greek term James uses here for “do business.” James is now talking to business, and he does it like a coach who isn’t happy with his team. The Jews were famous for business practices and trade. They had their own network of insider information and business contacts. The Christian Jews would have still been a part of this network. The pocketbook or wallet is always the last thing in a man to be converted (one of Luther’s own proverbs), and it’s doubtful that Jews and Christians who had formerly been Jews would avoid one another where money was concerned. There are even descriptions in the Jewish traditions (the Mishnah) of how a man might still conduct business with a stranger during the sabbath, by having the stranger put his hand through the Jew’s doorway or window and letting the money fall out of his hand (rather than “do the work” of handing the money out the window himself). It was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees at its worst.
The hypothetical businessmen that James describes have made plans for their investment. It would be in such and such a city, leaving on a certain day, spending a year at that place (clearly there is a considerable investment at stake), and an estimate of the profit. What, James asks, is missing? It all seems so well planned; so carefully thought through, but there is no mention of God at all. It is as if God can take of care spiritual things, and he can answer my children’s prayers, but when it comes to money, I’ll be the one in charge. God can just keep his hand out of my purse.
But, James says, you’re not in control of anything. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Solomon said: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what the day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). And Jesus told the parable of the Rich Fool who made plans about his wealth, but God said: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20). James’ irony is often lost on readers: The hypothetical businessmen were planning out a whole year when they couldn’t really say anything even about the very next day.
In the verses that follow, James will talk about what we should do instead, putting everything in God’s hands. But for now, we realize that this applies to more than just business. Think of the plans that students make about classes they will take, or plans parents make for their children and family, or the plans a church makes to expand its school. Or the plans a physician makes to cure a patient. We must not leave God out of the plan. A couple planning their wedding, a man making plans for his little garden, a farmer making plans about what will go into his fields, or how many pigs he can take on next month, or a grocer considering just how many apples he will sell. We should not make any plans apart from God. The Lord Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth is the one who makes today happen and tomorrow happen. This is one of the many doctrines that so many of America’s founding Fathers, the Deists, got wrong. The Deists (like today’s Masons) believed that God is the Great Architect, the Clock Maker who made his creation so perfectly, wound it all up to get it going, and then forgot about it all on a shelf. But God is not an absent-minded inventor. He is deeply concerned and invested in each of our lives. He wants what is best for us. He loves us, sent his Son to die for us, and brings his forgiveness, his grace, and his every blessing to us through Jesus our Lord. Make plans, but ask God to bless those plans.
When You Bless
When you bless us
We are blessed
When you judge ‘tis yours the judgment
When the planting
When it grows
When the harvest comes with blessing
When the vict’ry
When the crown
When the love that you come giving
When the morning
When the night
When the light returns a-dawning
When the lifetime
Runs its course
When the resurrection calling
When the God of heav’nly Armies
Sends for us his Bride to rise
When returns our Jesus
(Based on Christian Worship 218 and 231)
Pastor Timothy Smith