My Supreme Arrogance

I recently read through James. I was struck by a particular section (4:13-17):

13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

I can tell you exactly why it struck me, and it wasn’t a profound thought, a deep realization, or a piece of some puzzle that clicked together in my head. No, it was simply this: I am, right now, in S. Korea, with my wife Kristina, teaching English for a year. Did you catch that? I was just such a person as these verses describe, and not just in my assumptions about the future. I was literally a person who said “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” We are here to save up money so I can go to seminary when we get back home to Canada. We planned with an uncertain date of departure, and an uncertain destination. These things work that way, you go when you get a job, and you go wherever the job is. I might as well have said it in the words of this verse.

Who are we that we make such plans? We are but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. That is a lot of humility I lack right there, let me tell you. I can’t remember the last time I thought of myself in such terms. Let me go further; I have always believed I can do anything I want to. Truly, apart from God I am nothing, and I can do nothing. Truly, with Him I can do anything. Why then do I continually fail to think as these verses describe? ‘If the Lord wishes…’ Indeed, my whole life is set before me and if the Lord wishes…

I have long struggled with a middle section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:25-34, the “Do Not Worry” section. How am I not supposed to worry about tomorrow, and yet live responsibly as if I do have a long life in front of me? This paradox as been posed by many before me (my favorite being Bonhoeffer) but I have never understood. I still don’t, but I think that, maybe, these verses in James are a start.

If I were to really have the attitude of ‘If the Lord wishes…’ then perhaps I could come one step closer to living fully in the present, responsibly for the future, and without worrying. It is such a beautiful thing when you think about it. By prefacing your future by ‘If the Lord wishes…’ you acknowledge in whose hands the future rests, you acknowledge your own dependence on the Lord, both for now and the future, and you still acknowledge that you have a future. For how could one acknowledge ones dependence, remind oneself of the Lords control, and forget the Love God has for us, and the free will he has given us? A position of humility, honesty, realism, truer security than you can get anywhere else, exciting uncertainty, and responsibility.

Praise the Lord.


Jon said...

thanks, that was goood reading

taechtner said...

So true. Good word Andrew.

Pte. Ryan said...

Indeed, if the Lord wishes.

Praise the Lord.