JAMES 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.” CSB
OBSERVATION: What does it mean to live presumptuously? Is it a sin to make plans for the future? Is it a lack of faith to pray – “If the Lord wills?” How do we wrap our arms around these verses from the fourth chapter of James?
Webster, in his 1828 Dictionary of the English language, defines presumption (in this context) as,
- “Blind or headstrong confidence; unreasonable adventurousness; a venturing to undertake something without reasonable prospect of success, or against the usual probabilities of safety; presumptuousness.”
Have I ever been blind, headstrong, unreasonably adventurous, venturing off into the future without consulting the Lord? Humbly, I must confess – too many times! And, my presumption was not in the direction of sin. My battle with presumption was in getting ahead of God’s timing and trying to do His work in my wisdom and strength.
No matter how you look at it, presumption is sin. Presumption leads to boasting and boasting focuses the glory that should be given to the Lord on the one who is doing the boasting. Many times I found myself in presumption and in all honesty I was trying to simply walk in faith. Yet, my faith was not grounded in the Word of God, it was focused on my actions. I was putting faith in faith rather than faith in God.
The example James uses is a man who boasts that he will go into a city for business, trade, and make a huge profit. There is nothing wrong with being diligent in business. It is not the man’s diligence that is the issue. It is his presumption. He boasts of his success even before he has it. And, his focus is completely on want he wants, rather than on what God wants.
How can we ascertain this? By the last verse in this chapter.
- “All such boasting is evil. So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.”
Through this man’s boasting he neglected to do the good that God intended for him to do. He was so busy pursuing his own dreams and ambition, he failed to seek God’s will for his life. And, in so doing, he walked right past the good that God desired him to do. How many times have we walked past the good that God desires us to do?
I will never forget one lesson I learned that drove this truth home. I was on my way to a pastor’s meeting. On my way I passed a woman walking on the side of the road with a crutch and a bag of groceries. I was drawn to her plight, but I had an appointment that I needed to make. At that moment my personal will superseded the good that I knew I should do. I kept on driving as I saw her walking laboriously down the road through my rear view mirror.
Convicted by the Holy Spirit, after I had gone several blocks, I turned my car around. As I approached the woman I saw another car had stopped to help her with her need. As I drove past, now viewing the Good Samaritan in my rear view mirror, I was filled with sadness and remorse. I had missed the opportunity to show God’s love. God had provided for this woman in need – but I had missed the opportunity to be a blessing!
This is what happens when we live in the fast lane of presumption. We carve out a pathway for our dreams and aspirations without seeking the will of the Lord. Presumption is not always focused on overt acts of sin, but it always leads to sin because it leads us away from the good that God is calling us to do. We cannot see the future, let alone the next five minutes of our life. Therefore, we need to seek God’s will moment by moment, day by day, with a humble and hungry heart.
I am very close to retirement. Yet, I am not making plans for my retirement. I have made preparation – but I have not made any plans. Rather, I am seeking the Lord for His next engagement for my life. In every decision I am praying – “Lord, if it is Your will.” And, I am looking for the good that He wants me to do today. I don’t want to live my life through the rear view mirror looking at missed opportunities and blessings.
Lord, I marvel at Your mercy and Your grace. Thank you for forgiving me for all the acts of presumptuousness that I have committed in my life. Help me to live the rest of my life, surrendered to Your will, seeking Your direction, and doing the good that You desire each day!
In Jesus Name!