“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).
The adage “those who fail to plan plan to fail” is true. But, as James points out, those who fail to plan properly will also fail.
In this passage, James gives two ways to go about making plans—one is foolish, and one is wise.
Foolish planning (verses 13-14) is presumptuous. The problem with this set of plans was not its attention to details (like having a time of departure, a destination, a time frame, and a purpose). Rather, it was the great confidence the planners had in their ability to make these things come to pass. Unbeknownst to them, their plans actually reek of arrogance and presumption. Believing that God’s kindness and compassionate providence are non-essentials to the success of their plans is foolish and evil.
Wise planning (verses 15-16) is not presumptuous. Careful plans are made tentatively. They ever recognize God’s sovereignty to overrule them and are continually aware of the truth that what God ultimately provides is always better for me than what I originally planned.
Though the difference may seem pretty subtle, there is a world of difference between foolish and wise planning.