1 Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. 4 Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces.
James ended chapter 4 by warning against business people who arrogantly assumed their plans gave them total control of life. But he had more to say: many of the same people had hoarded treasure “in the last days.” But surely, he didn’t live in the “last days”? “With Jesus, God’s new world had begun! He had launched God’s kingdom, on earth as in heaven: this is ‘the age to come’ for which Israel had longed and prayed! These are, in that sense, ‘the last days.’” *
Loving Lord, songwriter Rich Mullins said of you, “The hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.” *** Grow in me your attitude toward earthly wealth. Amen.
* Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 35). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
** Comment on James 5:1-6 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
*** To see a homemade video of Rich Mullins singing his song “You Did Not Have a Home,” click here.
I’m a planner. I like calendars, visioning meetings, strategic planning, etc. I have paper calendars and planners. I have digital calendars and planners. I collect every color of highlighter and marker pens to help organize my planning. I even have digital highlighters and tabs too. I love planning. And I work best with those who also like planning ahead…who find it exhilarating to work with others who set out to plan ahead and collaborate. I mean, we know where were going! Who wouldn’t want to plan ahead?
I even plan my vacations and time spent with friends. It’s my goal to always fit in as much as possible in that time, so planning is important. Right?
We plan for the next hour, the next day, and for all the days in our future.
I don’t think planning in and of itself is wrong. In fact, I think there’s something to be said about being good stewards of the time God gifts us with each day. But I do believe that in all our planning we can lose sight of God’s will.
Planning can give us a false sense of security. When we attempt to plan out everything, we run the risk of believing we’ve got the control and that we don’t need God. The best way to measure whether or not we are relying on our plans or on God is how we react when our plans fall through or when the simple security of our next days’ plans feel threatened.
We can do some crazy things when that security is messed with. Remember back to the beginning of the pandemic? You would have thought that toilet paper, in and of itself, was going to save us from a deadly virus. People hoarded essential supplies in their effort to “plan” for the worst. You couldn’t find essentials like toilet paper anywhere and yet, some people had storehouses of it. The pandemic shook the sense of security we had because all of our plans and expectations were so suddenly disrupted.
How do you react when all of your plans fall through? I know that many times my initial responses are anger, frustration, fear, and impatience. In those times, I need to stop and regroup. If my initial responses become a breeding ground for fear, then I am definitely not seeking God’s will to be done, but rather my own will to be done. In those times, I am no longer relying on Him…it has become all about me and all about my hopes, dreams, and desires.
It’s silly, in a sense, to think that I am in control. That my planning and preparation give me a leg-up. Ultimately, God is the one in control and when my plans get thwarted, I need to turn to Him, and I need to trust in Him. His will is far, far greater than my own. And His will is always going to prevail whether or not me and my planning attempt to get in the way of that.
Planning without giving those plans over to God can also lead us to live very selfish lives. When we forget to surrender our plans to God, we hold tight to everything we seemingly earned and planned for on our own…wealth, status, power, success. But James warns us about all that we hold tight to and reminds us that any plans that led to fruitful blessings are ultimately all gifts from God. They are not ours to hold tight to, we are called to share with a heart towards justice, kindness, and humility. Bottom line, no amount of money, status, or planning can or should replace the hope we have in Christ. The tighter we hold on to those things, the less we trust in God to guide our hearts…the less we trust His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven…the less we seek to see His will done on earth as it is in heaven.