(This blog post was originally written by Jean-Marie Jobs in July 2016.)

In a recent study of the book of James, I came across this passage, out of the Message:

James 4:13-17  13 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today — at the latest, tomorrow — we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” 14 You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. 15 Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

Contrary to how it may seem, James is not saying ‘don’t plan’.  Rather, he is provoking us to examine the fruit of our independence, our self-sufficiency.  He says, look, it shows up in the way we order our steps or plan our futures, perhaps without thought of obedience to the Lord. Without considering how we are to steward our passion.  It’s an interesting tension.

If you examine the Greek here, another way to interpret this is ‘if it aligns with what God intends’ or ‘if it is pleasing to the Lord’.  I don’t think the intention of this verse was to encourage people to make whatever plans they wanted and then tag on the end of it, oh yeah, if God wills it.  Especially given the prior verses regarding drawing near to God. That sounds more like presumption than humility.

James is pressing his finger on what has become a major pathology in our society. Being overextended in commitments, stressed out, and ultimately dissatisfied, compulsive people.  Are any of those experiences in our lives God’s will?  If we are intimately connected to Jesus, our hearts are towards Him.  We desire to hear His voice, to please Him, to be with Him. Out of that connection, we make choices about our direction.  Connection determines direction.  Out of our passions flow the course of our lives.

All throughout the Scripture we see Jesus addressing the heart – whether its saying ‘they praise me with their lips but their hearts are far from me’ or asking the rich young ruler to give up his possessions (what his heart was connected to) or suggesting that if you commit adultery in your heart, you have sinned. And we have a responsibility to train our passions, to direct our hearts.

Who or what are you connected to in this moment?  How is it influencing the direction of your life?