So what was wrong with what these people said in verse 13: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit'”? What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong is that it does not give expression to a true view of life or God. Specifically, it does not give expression to the truth that life is a vapor, and it does not give expression to the truth that God governs the length of our lives and the achievements of our lives.
Is there a deeper problem here than just the absence of true words and the presence of bad theology? Yes, there is, and James describes it in verse 16: “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” The root problem is arrogance or pride, and the expression of that arrogance, he says, is “boasting.” And all they said was, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” That’s all they said. And James calls it boasting, and says it’s rooted in arrogance.
At this point in my sermon preparation, I stopped and put my face in my hands and prayed: Oh, Lord, don’t let me overstate this or understate this. Help me to say it as simply and truly and powerfully and shockingly as it is here: It is arrogant not to believe with your heart and confess with your lips that ultimately God governs how long you live and what you accomplish. “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
There are many accusations today of arrogance and pride. If you say that a view of God is wrong and harmful, you will be accused of arrogance. If you say that Christians should share Christ with their Jewish friends in the hope that they would believe on Jesus and be saved, you will be accused of arrogance. If you say to a straying church member enmeshed in sin, “Repent and come back,” you may be accused of judgmentalism and arrogance.
These are very serious charges and so I look very carefully to the Scriptures as well as to my own heart to see what real arrogance is. And whatever else it is, this morning we must say this from James 4:13-16: It is arrogant not to believe in the heart and confess with the lips that how long you live and what you accomplish are ultimately in the hands of God.