Written by Paul J. Bucknell on November, 01, 2018
James 4:13-5:6 A Bible Study on “Today or Tomorrow”
4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. (NASB)
BIG IDEA of the Passage:
To make decisions without taking into serious consideration what God wants for our lives is foolish and causes poor decisions, resulting in messed-up lives and dangers in the judgment.
List one or two of your plans/hopes for your life.
Bible Study Questions:
James shows the results of ungodly decision-making, making life decisions without the Lord.
Discussion Questions: Main Purpose:
James begins this new section with the words, “Come now” and yet continues to expose the foolishness of worldly attitudes and actions. What worldly attitude does James condemn in verse 13?
- Take a close look at verse 13. Do you think James thinks it is wrong to plan? (Clearly not for God planned out the redemption plan from before the world began (Eph 1:3). James shows our willingness to plan without considering God’s purposes for our lives goes against the purpose for which God made us.)
- Do you think verse 13 could be likened to a graduating student getting a good job far away but in his/her plans never even thinks about getting committed to a body of believers? Explain.
- In what two ways does James attempt to bring the readers back to reality in verse 14? (1-Philosophically: He challenges their bogus assumptions about life; and 2-Illustratively: James depicts our lives as a fast-disappearing vapor, evidently referring to a breath on a cold winter morning which creates a vapor but lasts only for a moment before dissipating.)
- Pick out two areas of your life to see if you are susceptible to think about your life with God. One way to check is to see how prayerful you are about different parts of your life (e.g. job, a place to live, spouse, church life, etc.).
- Look at verse 15 and see what the right way you should think about life. (We should think about our lives with the Lord, that is, by seriously considering His purpose for putting us here or leading us to different places.)
- Older letters used to end with two Latin letters D.V. commonly. What do they mean? (Literally Deo volente God willing from this verse: “If the Lord wills”).
- Do you think, “Lord willing” means, “I hope God does it” or “I only want it if God wants it”? (The phrase is taken from verse 15 which clearly infers we should be seeking God’s wisdom and insight for a given situation because it is best even though it differs from what we want.)
- How is saying, “Today or tomorrow I will…” become a form of boasting (v. 16)?
- What does James mean by verse 17? (Making plans without the Lord, even though due to forgetfulness, is sinful because it reveals how you approach life without the Lord’s provision and guidance.)
- Go through verses 1-6 and detect what are the symptoms of making decisions without the Lord. (A long list: rich but miserable (1); lose your riches and taste of luxury (2); face judgment not only on earth but in heaven (3); You are willing to mistreat others to get ahead supposedly (4); God returns evil for your unjust ways; judgment awaits you (5); and even how blind we get so that we are willing to speak against the righteous so they get unfair treatment even death (6).)
- Would you say we are rich? Explain. Consider back then, what are the signs of wealth (if you were not a slave; had food and house; backup plan in case farming disaster)?
- Read verse 3. Do you think it is wrong to store up riches? Investment accounts? Store gold? Why or why not? (It is not wrong from this verse. The treasure here spoken of is that senseless pursuit of riches without thinking of God’s purposes for it in your life.)
- Verse 5 describes the Lord as “Lord of Sabaoth” or the Lord of hosts. (Also in Romans 9:29 quoting the OT. The phrase, then, is adapted from the Hebrew (tsaba’) which is translated as the Lord of Hosts 229 times in the OT, portraying God’s great power because of the great number of angels carrying out His work).
- List some positive reasons God has made or is making you able to earn lots of money. Are you able to govern your decisions even when you become wealthy?
- Verses 4-6 condemns those that improperly pursue riches, showing how that mindset leads to reprehensible situations. (Verse 6, “You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you” is very strong and probably refers to how some wealthy property or business owners had expanded their business by overriding the welfare of some small landowner, perhaps as Jezebel had Naboth killed (1Ki 21:15).)
- Secularism, whether atheistic or religious in nature, tends to fall into certain attitudes that James points out here. Review them as you go on. (Note how people will commit an abortion (kill a baby) because of inconvenience-complete injustice.)
- What advantage is it to take the Lord into all your plans such as marriage, studies, work, place of living, etc.?
- Why is wealth so apt to lead the believer and unbeliever away from the Lord?
A godly life is shaped by regularly considering what God has for your life and making life and daily decisions consistent with what God desires. Closeness to God protects one from harm, but more so, enables you to make wise decisions not just for this world but the next.