I am currently reading the Book of Isaiah. One of the central themes of Isaiah is that pride is revealed by self-sufficiency as opposed to humble obedience to God.
According to James, what is seen as ordinary behavior is actually prideful self-sufficiency.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money” (James 4.13).
How many times have we made plans to take a trip or conduct business without giving a thought to God?
If you are like me, decisions like these have been made more times than we can count.
What seems to be normal behavior is actually prideful self-sufficiency in disguise.
How many of us have our day planned only to have a flat tire, dead battery, or something far worse?
James goes beyond flat tires. He writes, “Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4.14).
Self-sufficiency can overcome flat tires, but it is no match for death. The prospect of death reveals our need for God in every aspect of our lives.
Humble obedience is the correct course of action.
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that” (James 4.15).
During a time of depression and loss, Frank Laubach made a decision to surrender his pride in his abilities and accomplishments. He began a practice of listening to God for all of his decisions.
Laubach reasoned that since we are always thinking, then why not allow God into our thoughts? He began a life-long process of turning his thoughts into silent prayers for direction.
Laubach was one of the most productive Christian leaders of the last century. The act of inviting God into his thoughts was the central key to his life.
In case the readers of James missed his point that self-sufficiency is a symptom of pride, he wrote: “As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (James 4.16).
Simple decisions that are made separate from God’s guidance are not innocent. They reflect the pride of self-sufficiency.
Even though it is not highly rebellious behavior, attitudes and actions like these are sinful.
“Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin” (James 4.17).
Attitudes and Actions
As we consider another aspect of self-sufficient price, we need to remember that the Book of James was written to the church.
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.
Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure during the last days (James 5.1-3).
Travel, business plans, and wealth are ways we attempt to secure our future. Followers of Jesus need to make sure that our treasures don’t eat us up.
Christians are stewards of God’s resources, not owners. God has entrusted wealth to us and he wants to determine how it is spent.
What we do with money should be determined by God, just as travel or business plans.
Theology and Behavior
What we truly believe about God will be demonstrated in the ways we treat other people.
James writes to Christians, who choose prideful self-sufficiency over humble obedience. They may claim to follow Jesus, but their workers don’t see Christlike behavior from them.
Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter.
You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you (James 5.4-6).
E. Stanley Jones was a millionaire Methodist minister in the 1950s and 1960s. He was “Time” magazine’s man of the year and his fame caused book sales to skyrocket.
Jones did not buy a mansion with his money and didn’t fly on a private plane. Instead, he invested his money in missionary work in India and contended for Indian freedom from colonial rule.
Like Laubach, Jones lived in humble obedience to the Lord’s leadership. He left a legacy of courageous and loving service to Jesus. His theology was matched by his behavior.
Let’s choose to follow the example of great Christian men and women, instead of the bad examples James mentions in his writing.
Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.