One of the best things a person can do in life is to plan their moves. In my teenage years, I never cared about planning anything. Often times, the idea was presented to me, but I brushed it off, because I was focused with the present (the now). Had I picked up the importance of it earlier, I probably would have been a lot more systematic than I am now. It is never too late to learn (to reform). Though I’ve become a planner, I realize that no matter how hard you plan, certain factors are out of your hands. Should Christians plan? If yes, is there (or should there be) any difference from how the world does it?
Giving you all that the bible says on planning is not my purpose here. I’m limiting my reflections to James’ epistle. In James 4, the apostle begins his march towards a Christian perspective on planning by presenting what is commonly done. He begins by saying, “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” (Jam. 4:13). This is common in the modern world.
There are a few things to note: the first one is that the planner(s) has a location in mind: “we will go to such and such a city.” Second, the planner(s) calculated the amount of time that they are going to spend in the city: “and spend a year there.” The third move is to decide on actions to be taken during the time spent in that location: “and engage in business.” Finally, the planner(s) are expecting a net income on their business venture: “and make a profit.” Sounds like a great plan!
In verse 14, however, James begins with a word that calls for the fast-paced reader to slow down, he says “Yet.” He then goes on to add a few things. First, he wanted them to reflect on the fact that they might not be alive tomorrow: “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” Second, this statement also means that they don’t know what their existence will be like. Existing does not require a clean bill of health.
Furthermore, we see a description of life in 14b: “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (So much for doctoral plans). If you ever seen a vapor, what will immediately struck you is its’ frailty and the shortness of its existence. In the big picture—the history of a universe locked in a great controversy—individual existence (in terms of time) is only but a vapor. It goes by rapidly. One instant, we are living, and the next we are gone. James is giving these planners, what we may refer to as a spiritual “reality check”.
The problem with the plan was not that it was not good; it was a great plan, well laid out with specific details. However, they were missing the most important thing. I will present this to you as the Fundamental Principle for Christian Planning: what does Jesus thinks about our plans?
Let’s look at verse 15 for more clarification. James gives the prescription for the major error that the planner(s) committed. He says, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Though James place the Lord’s will prior to the details of the plan, his purpose is not to advocate a rhetorical formula for prosperous results. Rather, it is to display what should be the planner(s) main (primary) concern.
When a Christian is making plans and has not spoken to Jesus first, he is pacing on dangerous grounds. If the Lord wills, then they will live and He will allow them to be able to do this or that. The emphasis is not on you saying “if the Lord wills” when you are speaking to people about your plans, but being aware of the fact that the Lord must be consulted first!
I’m still in the process of practicing this, what is your experience?