Lesson 18

The Epistle of James

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

4:13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow let's go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit." 4:14 Whereas you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. 4:15 For you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that." 4:16 But now you glory in your boasting. All such boasting is evil. 4:17 To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin.

Today's Lesson 

The evil that men do comes from sin in their hearts. God changes our hearts by implanting the word of truth. There it is nourished by the Spirit of God that yearns jealously for the lost souls of God's creation. So James has been instructing his readers that reliance on ourselves and on the sinful nature puts us at enmity with God. God is the giver of all good gifts. He gives those gifts to those that have faith. Faith works itself in our lives through Christian works. In these ways the implanted word is nourished and grows.


So in this section of his epistle, James discusses another way in which we rely on ourselves. Sometimes we plan our lives as though God has no influence. James gives the example of the man who says, "Today or tomorrow let's go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit." Such a man plans his life without regard to God's wishes or concerns.


What is a man's life, James writes, but a vapor - a mist. We appear for just a little time. Then we vanish away. Through the measure of the thousands of years of written human history, our lives are over in just an instant. Measured against the natural world, we barely exist.


What we ought to say, James tells us, is that we will do God's will. We ought to live our lives as God created them to be lived. God is the origin of all things. God formed us and set the boundaries to our existence. He knows all that we are capable of and the purposes for which we were made. Who better to instruct us on the proper way that we should live?


But, in our boasting natures, through the evil that is in our hearts, we would say to God, "No, I will do what I CHOOSE to do, not what you would have me to do!" We would deny God the right to instruct us in right living. We want to be our own God. We want to set our own desires up as a God to be followed and worshipped.


We know that to do good we must do what God wants for us. Our hearts recognize what sin is, even when our intellect tries to disguise it, even when we try to rationalize it to ourselves. James writes that when we know what we ought to do, if we don’t do it, that's sin.


Have you known for a while now what God wants you to do? Why haven’t you done it? Why haven't you done everything that you know that your Creator wanted you to do? What is there in your life that still resists the sovereign rule of your God?


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