By Chuck Griffin
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
The human mind is a remarkable time traveler. Our bodies are always in the present, but our minds easily jump into the future or the past. In fact, it is very difficult to keep our minds perfectly in the present.
That’s not necessarily a problem. Our minds just work that way. Remembrances of the past and visions of the future help us make critical decisions.
If you’ve read all of James’ letter, though, you know that he has a theme regarding how our thoughts and words can reveal our failure to keep God central in our lives. Today’s Scripture reading focuses on the flippant ways we sometimes talk about the future.
Again, a little context helps. James wrote his letter at a time when the rich were very busy planning to get richer while the poor were getting poorer.
Much like Jesus, James was not being critical of wealth per se. Both warned, however, of the incredible distraction the pursuit of wealth can become when there’s kingdom work to be done.
James took particular note of the merchants of his day, who ran from city to city planning ventures years in advance, with no acknowledgment of their own mortality or need to align with God. Along these same lines, Jesus had told a parable found in Luke 12:13-21, a story aimed more at wealthy, overly comfortable landowners.
There’s a simple, very true cliché that Jesus or James could have used: “You can’t take it with you.” And if you can’t take it with you, why would anyone who believes in God pursue wealth without considering God? As one Christian commentary notes, such a short-sighted attitude is the “sin of arrogant presumption.”
James helps us maintain the right attitude as we plan for the future by giving us a simple phrase to keep in mind: If the Lord wants, followed by whatever we need to say about the future. In the South, we might precede such statements with, “Lord willin’.”
While we naturally talk about the future, the spiritually attuned are deliberate about focusing on the precious present, the holy now. We can go to Scripture now to seek God’s truth. We can pray now, staying with God until we hear from God.
Having dwelled with God in the moment, we then are better equipped to look to the future, letting God’s greater plan shape any visions we may have.
Lord, may we walk with you moment by moment, staying on the path that leads us to eternity with you. Amen.
✟ To subscribe to LifeTalk devotionals, enter your email address in the box found on any page of the Methodist Life website. ✟