Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” (JBP)
We simply do not know what the future might bring. We make calculated predictions, we entertain fond hopes and dreams, we warily consider possible threats. But in the end we can’t control or accurately forecast the future. We may imagine a future but we don’t have the power to create it.
It seems our God gives us just enough light to take the next step. Worrying too much about what remains in the shadows beyond may mean we can’t enjoy or embrace our present experience. We might want God to give us a sneak preview of what lies ahead, but he is usually content to lead us one step at a time. We are to trust that God will show us the way forward when the time comes.
Our text describes those who make plans with excessive self-confidence. They are in control, they dictate events and outcomes. The truth is that we have no such control. True, we can legitimately plan ahead, but as James reminds us, always with the proviso that God may intervene and he is the one ultimately in control.
It is a pity that we can’t embrace the present because we are so concerned about the future. A pity that we can’t enjoy the light we have because we are so anxious to be given some all-illuming spotlight which casts away the shadowy darkness. We are to live in the light we have today and trust that we will have sufficient light in whatever future awaits us.