20 November 2013

James 4:13-17

“What is your life?” (v. 14)


This seems like a harsh message, doesn't it? Is it really arrogant to make plans? There are other parts of the Bible that seem to commend the man who prepares for famine, or a rainy day. I think that I know what I'll hope to be doing next year, as (I guess) do most of you. By doing so, are we making a grave mistake, and inviting accidents to happen to us? We can probably imagine that James is probably speaking very specifically to people who have somehow displayed arrogance in their planning, and their expectations. And we can assume that this is not their first offence of arrogance, or of ignoring advice from church elders.

James then suggests that anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do this, commits sin. But sometimes we don't know what the right thing to do is, do we? Job is an example of a person who thinks he understands how to act, but when life turns upside down for him, his opinion changes and he starts to voice his unhappiness with God's actions. So what should we do about the many mysteries of our existence? This passage reminds the reader that life is a mystery - we live for only a short time, and then leave again, but the world remains with no mark left on it from our time here. The intensity of high-level creation that burns out in such a short space of time is remarkable, and can be seen as a huge mystery, surely, but also it is perhaps a reminder that if we pose ourselves as one who is all knowing, and who understands everything, then we are bound to be shown up in our suffering and illness and death, and how we don't understand what happens or where we go. The arrogance then could be not future planning, but the expectation that we can live exactly as we choose, and are not affected by outside influences. Our Christian calling is not to live in isolation, but in community, and anyone who allows themselves to be involved and affected by the joys and trials of the lives of others is living a life in the image of Christ. If we refuse to change our plans and help those when they need help, or comfort those when they need comfort, then we are indeed failing to live as our Father wishes.

To Ponder

  • What does it mean to you to live truly in community? How does that change how we might otherwise want to act?
  • What does Jesus' life show us about the community of which we are called to be part?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.