James: A verse by verse Study

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4:13-17 NIV

Prideful Boasting

James concludes this section of the letter with verses 13 through 17. He presses into how little we actually know or control our lives. Therefore, our best possible option at all times is to depend on God. These verses call us out for the times we boast about where we will go, what we will do and how things will turn out – habits commonly accepted among most people in every generation.

James’ quote about boastful words and deeds serves as another example of faulty wisdom. He already characterized such practices as boastful, selfishly ambitious, bitter, disruptive, envious and evil. Often, sinful desires, worldly pressures and evil influences urge us to choose to go our own way apart from God. Do you ever react to tensions by stumbling into prideful choices and boastful words? If so, James says you are not alone.

When we boast, we display pride and arrogance, not humility. Instead, James says we must remain humble and submitted to God. James uses thick fog as a picture of human life on earth. Fog seems substantial, yet it disappears quickly as soon as the sun is up. Likewise, every person’s life is fragile. None of us can guarantee even one more moment of life. Therefore, boastful words about our tomorrows prove our dependence on faulty wisdom, instead of reliance on God.


Q1. What are things people boastfully depend on instead of humbly following God?

INSIGHTS: Examples include: self, ego, personal power or influence, wealth, past success, flattery from other people, will-power, perseverance, statistics or other expert opinions.

Q2. How can believers engage in wise planning while acknowledging God’s sovereignty? 

INSIGHTS: Answers will vary, but believers are instructed to plan wisely and to work faithfully all in prayerful dependence on God, who alone knows the future.

What changes do you intend to make in your actions and your interactions with others in light of these verses?

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