James 4:15-17 - The Verses Project

Bible James 4:15-17

Posted June 10, 2013

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.

These verses are a continuation from last week as James reminds us that humans are not as independent as we often think we are, and are like a mist here today but gone tomorrow. He focused on the things we should not say, but what should we in turn say? How should we act?

Humble Submission

James exhorts us to see all of life under the sustaining power and control of God. Only if God wills that we do something will we be able to do it. Again, God is Creator and we are creatures. Proverbs 16:9 says that, “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” This is not an excuse to not plan, but rather plan with humility! Ultimately God is in control, not us and our savvy. This is also not an excuse for sloppiness or lack of excellence, but rather to work as excellently as we are able and trust in God for the rest. We must learn to rest in the fact that God is strong and God is loving in all He does (even at times when it seems that we’ve been abandoned).

In his commentary on James, Douglas Moo warns us of the dangers of simply tacking this phrase on to statements. “‘If the Lord wills’ can become nothing more than a glib formula without any real meaning. James, rather, wants us to adopt the attitude expressed by the words as a fixed perspective from which to view all of life. This perspective should add an element of contingency to all our planning - ‘if the Lord allows this to happen.’ But it should also force us to evaluate our planning from a biblical ethical perspective - ‘if this kind of plan is in accordance with the Lord's will expressed in Scripture for his people.’”

Godly Boasting

So at the end of the day, who or what do we boast in? The world pridefully boasts in itself, its own inner-strength and ability. It does not see a need for God, only for self. James, on the other hand, calls this boasting evil; Christians are to boast not in themselves, but in the Lord! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” When you gather with others, what do you find yourself talking about? Boasting in? May it be in the Lord and what His strength has accomplished in you...

Sinful Omission

Lastly, James tells us that whoever knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it is sinning. Often we think of sinning as things we do, not things we don’t do. We are guilty not only of sins of commission but also sins of omission. We see examples of this elsewhere in Scripture: the servant who buried the master’s money (Matthew 25:14-30) and those who did not care for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-40). Both God-less activity (without consideration for God, only self) and God-less inactivity (knowing what we should do but not doing it) are condemned in the sight of God. We rather want to be a people who act faithfully in the things God leads us to do, knowing ultimately we are in His hand and under His providential care.

This week’s artwork was created by Tim Krause (http://www.timkrausecreative.com/), song by Ryan Walker (check out Ryan’s band Emelo: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/emelo/id269514960) and produced by Dustin Ragland.