In James 4:13-5:6, James warns against the arrogant use of time, talent and wealth. James makes a deeper point than saying he’d like to hear “if the Lord wills” more often. Notice his emphasis on boasting in your arrogance and knowing the right thing and not doing it.
The real issue is my own claim to power and control. I see myself as important, powerful, and substantive. I will go out in business and succeed. It is not wrong to be confident in your abilities; the problem is the boasting attitude behind it. James is not warning against confidently using the skills God has given you. He’s warning not to take that one step further and conclude I am the master of my fate.
Continuing his theme of the connection between what we say we believe and how we live our lives, James writes against a worldly attitude that ignores God. The attitude that I will proudly accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish and pursue my goals despite whatever God has in mind. Yes, I can confidently assess my gifts, my skills and my calling, but I dare not live as if God has no place in that. I must acknowledge He is my creator and my loving father and He may have other plans. Worldly fame and fortune and business success may not be in his plan for me. I may step out, use my skills, and go bankrupt because that is the lesson I need to learn.
For a believer it is not a trivial matter to arrogantly claim to have control over the future. We know better. The gospel tells us God controls the future, not us. Therefore to know that God is in control and yet to act as if I myself am in control is a sinful thing.
How I use my time and my wealth reflect whether or not I believe God will keep His promises.
Questions James 5:1-6
- What people do you think James’ is addressing here? For instance, are they in the church or outside the church? Who would these people be today?
- Do you think James is being too hard on the rich in this passage? Why?
- What constitutes “luxury” and “self-indulgence” (vs 5)? How do we know when we’ve crossed that line?
- What does this passage add to your understanding of wealth and riches?
- Do you think you could lack wealth and be guilty of the same attitudes and offenses described in this passage?