Jesus once told a parable about a rich man whose economic endeavors were going quite well—so well, in fact, that he didn’t have enough room to store all his wealth. He made plans to build more barns and congratulated himself: “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” God evaluated the situation differently: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:13–21).
The rich fool in Jesus’ story failed to understand what James taught in today’s passage. Mature faith makes plans, but remains in a posture of humility and submission to the sovereignty of God. To think our plans are indestructible is foolish because we’re not in control of all (or even very many of) the variables (vv. 13–14). This is hard to hear, because in American culture we usually like making plans. They indicate confidence, creativity, and purposefulness. But making plans in a spirit of pride will lead us to forget the fleeting nature of human life. Assuming our plans will dictate future events ignores the fact that it is God who rules over everything.
Today’s passage is almost a parable itself. It begins with a kind of story (v. 13), unmasked as foolish, which leads to warnings (vv. 14, 16) and advice on wiser choices to make instead (vv. 15, 17). We don’t have to stop making plans, but as believers we’re to make them from an entirely different orientation. To make plans in the way initially described is boasting and prideful. We’re trusting in our plans and abilities rather than in God. We should instead say “if it is the Lord’s will” and mean it.
Sins of omission are real sins (v. 17). To know the good but not to do it is wrong in God’s eyes. Now that James’s readers understand the truths he’s teaching, they have no excuse for not doing them.
Prayers of confession include repentance for sins of omission. Here’s an example: “Heavenly Father, we lower our heads before you and confess that we have often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there was no God and we fall short of being a credible witness to You. For these things we ask your forgiveness.”