The greeting.

Grace and mercy and peace to you Beloved in the name of Christ. God has given us another day to love Him and serve Him where He has placed us. I pray that you may be flourishing in Christ and for Christ where He has planted you. Part of the watering to make us flourish is to drink of the word of life – the holy Bible. 

The Scripture.

Today we are on our 19th study in the book of James. We will look at James 4:13-17. Please get your Bible out and read along with me. Hear the holy word of God – read. 

James 4:13. Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Let me read for us a related verse from the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 27:1. Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. 

The prayer.

Please join me in praying to our Lord for His assistance in our study of His word today – pray. 

The sin of presumption.

God through James warns these professing Believers in Jesus Christ from being presumptuous in their thinking.

The definition of presumption.

Perhaps it might be helpful to define presumption. Too bold, overly confident, inordinately certain. And the idea is without just reason for the confidence. Overstepping the bounds of propriety.

Words related to presumptuousness are arrogance, rudeness, egotistical, prideful, self-conceit, self-importance, braggart, boastful, conceited.

The opposite of boastful proud presumption would be humble, lowly, meek, mild, modest, and quiet.

Which one sounds like an imitation of Satan? Which one sounds like an imitation of Christ? (Mt.11:20-30) Look at the nature of the true Believer as Jesus expresses it in the Beatitudes. (Mt.5:1-16) Over-confident braggart is not on the list! 😊

The expression of presumption.

Notice James says those that say.  Jesus has told us that what is in our hearts will come out of our mouths. Will. Not might. Not maybe. Certainly will. (Mt.12:32-37)

Sinful words.

James chapter three is about sinning with our words.

Slanderous words.

And just before our passage James warns believers against slandering their brother and their neighbor.

James 4:10. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

Boastful words.

The same heart that tears down other seeks to build self up. Now in verses 13-17 we learn that overly confident hearts produce overly confident words. Pride in the heart produces boastful words.

Such a professing Believer “says”, “I” and I “will” and I will “go” and I will “do” and I will “make”! What two words do you keep hearing? “I” And I “will”. This is man’s so called free will, it is self-will, selfish will.

The desire of presumption.

Let’s look at the desire of this example of presumptuousness. 

These Christians are assuming that their intended business enterprises will be financially successful. In short, these Believers think, well I have such and so money-making idea and when I put it into action, well I will make a lot of money.

But as professing Christians they probably would want to dress up their worldliness just a bit. Oh, I am not doing this for the money or the profit of course. I am a Christian. I wouldn’t do anything for the “love” of money because I know the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. I just want to “help people”. Or something like that! 😊

Now this example that James gives is what we would call a business idea or venture. But the same idea would be true of any earthly desires or desired physical or material projects. For example, we could say, right now I have a certain level of health or body weight and physical fitness, well by next year I will be nice and slim and totally physically fit. I will be running marathons by the end of the year!

You see the inordinate certitude is in something “good” and not in something “bad”. And I will say, as the flesh defines good and bad and not as the Bible defines good and bad.

In this example the sin of presumption is not in the desire to succeed in business.

In fact, as Reformed Presbyterian we see that the 8th commandment requires us to be diligent in our work. And that the main way that people excel in a material venture is to put for the necessary effort to that endeavor.

Listen to this.

WSC 73  Which is the eighth commandment?  The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal. (Exod.20:15, see WCF 140-142)

WSC 74 What is required in the eighth commandment?  The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. (Gen. 30:30; 1 Tim. 5:8; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1-5; Exod. 23:4,5; Gen. 47:14,20)

WSC 75  What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?  The eighth commandment forbids whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate. (Prov. 21:17; Prov. 23:20,21; Prov. 28:19; Eph. 4:28)

It is the idolatry of self.

Wealth is not sinful. To desire wealth is not necessarily a sinful thing either. Health and desiring physical health are not sinful in themselves. The sin in view is saying “I” “will” have these things that “I” “say” I will have.

There is no humility here. This is pride unvarnished.

This is an idolatry of self. And I mean the pleasure and ease and honor of self. Something like that. Presumption is the desire and the act of acting like the little “lord” of our own life. Acting almost like our own “mini god”! Which as a Believer we would deny, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.

We may be orthodox on paper. But our practice proves who we really are in the heart. Jesus says that you will know true Believers versus false professors from their fruit.

It is the idolatry of this world.

This boasting is an idolatry of this world, worldliness, and carnality. (I Jn.2:15-17, James 4:1-10, Lk.12:17-18, Phil.3:19)

Look at the nature of the intended project. I am going to start a business and make a million dollars! Thomas Manton says that carnal hearts are all for carnal projects. He goes on to say, thoughts are the purest offspring of the soul and reveal the nature of it. (Manton, An Exposition of the Epistle of James, p. 387)

The preoccupation with the things of this world.

Included in these expressly mercantile enterprises is all of those parts of life wherein we seek to maintain and prosper our outward condition.

So, we could say that the love of wealth is behind the boastful pride of life. But also, this expresses a species of being preoccupied with the world which all professing Christians are tempted unto.

The Bible warns Believers about giving their heart to the things of this world.

Matthew 13:22. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 

Matthew 24:37. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Luke 17:26. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

Luke 14:16. But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ 19 “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20 “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ 

Think of the ways into which we can stumble in this sin. Oh, when the children get to be 18 then I will do such and so. Oh, all my retirement savings will grow to such and so and when I retire, I will do such and so. Even our smaller plans. In three months, we will go on vacation, we will travel to such and so and we will do such and so.

Of course, James is not speaking against all plans. That would be silly. Even the ant plans for the future – wisely. (Prov.6:6-11)

He is speaking against all plans that do not include God in them! 

The folly of presumption.

It is foolishness. We do not know what will happen in the next five minutes of our life, let alone predicting the outcome in a year! There is a common saying, what a difference a day makes.

The denial of God’s lordship.

The great sin here is a denial of God. And I would say, a denial of the sovereign Lordship and government of God over all His creatures and over all their creatures. And that includes us personally.

The examples of presumptuousness.

Let me give us three Biblical examples of men that were presumptuous.

The OT. The first is from the OT. And then God taught him a lesson on Who is sovereign.

Daniel 4:28. All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 “Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. (Exod.15:11, Judges 5:28-30, I Kg.20:10-11)

The NT. Listen to our Lord’s parable about the boastful “fool”.

Luke 12:13. Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Also, we think of the apostle Peter boasting to Jesus that even if all the other disciples forsake Jesus that he never will. Peter boasted that he was willing to go to prison for Christ and even willing to die for Christ. But he (really) wasn’t willing. (Mt.26:69-75, Jn.18:15-27, Mk.14:66-72, Lk.22:54-62)

Peter relied too much upon himself. And after the devil sifted him like wheat (Lk.22:31-34), by God’s grace, Peter was restored to Christ and made more serviceable to Christ after he was humbled. (Jn.21:7-22, I Pt.5:1-7)

I will say this, when we sinfully boast in self, we tempt God to correct us.

The Bible says that pride goes before destruction. (Prov.16:18)

One almost certain way of ensuring that your plans will not come to pass is to boast about how “you will” bring them to pass. It is like issuing God a challenge. A very bad idea by the way.

Another thing for us to think about. Not only does our pride provoke God to discipline us, but when He does so (as He most certainly will) often times our loved ones suffer along with us. Think of this. Let’s say we have a sinful boasting husband and father, telling everyone about the success of all his future plans to make a great business come to pass. Well, when God humbles him and takes away his ability or opportunity to do “any” work and he comes to taste the pain of failure and poverty, well his family also suffers.

So, if there are any given to sinful selfish bragging, be careful that you are not the source of your family’s downfall. 

The experience. I can speak from sad experience in this. I actually did exactly what God tells us not to do. I was a brand-new born-again Believer so I guess my immaturity in the faith could be my only possible explanation, that and my prideful sin. 😊

Thirty years ago, shortly after I was converted to Christ for various reasons, I thought God opened a door for me to buy a business in Tallahassee Florida. I thought God was going to prosper the business as a means of providing for my desire to attend seminary to become a pastor. I talked my wife into giving me all the money that we both were working and saving to buy a home for. And I was convinced that my business would make a lot of money and all would go as I planned. And I confidently told her, and my dad, and everyone that else would listen that I was going to succeed! Well, nothing went as I planned. I moved. I failed in the business. I lost all our money. My wife and children suffered greatly for my sinfulness.

But I will say this. Even when we fail in this, God will use even that to build us up in Christ. (Rom.8:28, Ps.119:71) I learned many, many hard lessons during that time. One being, search the Scriptures before I plan and before I speak. The other was to see that God is God and I am not!

The cure of presumptuousness.

One of the things I love about the Lord and His word is that when He corrects us for a sin or an error, He also shows us how to do better. Here are some positive things to correct our sinful boasting about our future earthly good.

Say in your hearts.

The idea is to take council within yourself. The idea is to slow down and contemplate Bible truth before we formulate plans. And certainly, before we speak about those plans or intentions.

Remember God.

The idea is to remember God. Live with a conscious awareness of God. Live “Coram Deo” (before the face of God) as the saying goes.

In thinking of God is included the chief end or purpose of our life as relates to God. Remember why God has made us. And that is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever. (WSC 1)

Say, If the Lord wills.

And live with a constant daily awareness of your dependence upon God and His government over your life. (Eccl.12:13) In this we are told to imitate our Lord and our Savior saying, Father not My will but Thy will be done. (Lk.22:42-44)

We leave our desires and requests before the Lord and then we consciously submit to Him.

Wrong usage. May I say this about using this expression “if the Lord wills”. Let’s make sure that we mean it when we say it. Sometimes we say this because it is a common Christian expression amongst Christians, but we say it almost by rote without any heartfelt meaning. That is actually taking the name of the Lord in vain. (Exod.20:7, Mk.7:6, Isa.29:13, Ezek.33:31, Mt.15:7-9)

Right usage. The idea is to make your plans for your life in light of the word of God, which is the expressed will of God. So, are my plans Biblical?

Let me give us some Biblical examples of this.

Acts 18:19. They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.

I Corinthians 4:16. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. (I Cor.16:5-9, Phil.2:19-24, Heb.6:3)

We pray regularly the Lord’s Prayer. (Mt.6:9-13) In it we ask God to give us our daily bread, to sustain our physical lives and all that we require. We also ask God to forgive our daily sins and to keep us from our daily temptations. Oh Beloved, we need to be conscious of the prayer we make to God and honest in the prayers we make to God. And then to pray them in faith. And then in faith to look for God to daily answer them. And then daily to give Him the return due His name in praises and thanks.

Seek the kingdom of God.

I would also add this. Another thing we can do is to contemplate spiritual projects, to have spiritual plans and spiritual goals. And then commit these to the Lord as well. (Col.3:1-3, Mt.6:19-34)

Remember your mortality.

Then God tells us to remember our mortality. James uses the certainty of death for every person to shut the mouths of every presumptuous person. Death comes for all. Life is frail and uncertain for all. Is. And not might be.

God says, and I stress that “God” says this, that our life is a mere vapor, a mist, a morning fog. The sun rises a little in the sky and the morning mist vanishes. That “is” every human life.  (Ps.37:2, Ps.102:3, Ps.103:15, 2 Kg.19:26, Isa.40:6-8, Hosea 13:3, I Pt.1:24)

Psalm 90:2. Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3 You turn man back into dust And say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night. 5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Your anger And by Your wrath we have been dismayed. 8 You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.

Saint Augustine calls our life in this world a “dying life” or a “living death”. You see what he is getting at. That as long as we live, we live under the shadow of death. Life is tenuous and frail and changing.

Thinking about the day of our death and where we will go after our death will cure to a great degree our presumptuousness about our earthly success. Even if God granted us the acquisition of what we desired what will those things mean to us on the day God calls for our soul? Nothing at all. We leave all earthly things behind when God calls us to our eternal home.

We are perishing creatures that live in a perishing world. That is why the apostle Paul tells us not to cling too tightly to the things of this word, because it is all vanishing away. (I Cor.7:31)

Remember our changeability.

Of course, the end of our earthly life is the thing stated but implicit in that are a whole host of unmentioned but implied possible changes in our earthly life.

For example, we could lose our health. Or our loved one could lose their health and we are now required to care for them. We could be called away to another city. The opportunities for that business may change. The possible changes in our lives are endless.

And the key is that we do not know most of them. Nor can we truly govern-govern as in sovereignly govern any of them.

Do not boast.

V.16. God now tells vain boasters to stop their vain boasting. I almost want to smile over that one. God is saying here is a way to stop being presumptuous, stop being presumptuous!

James 4:6. But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”    (Ps.138:6, Prov.3:34, Prov.29:23, Lk.14:11, Lk.18:14, Mt.18:4, Mt.23:12)

Boasting gives man the glory. Boasting robs God of His glory. In fact, in God’s way of doing things he turns what Man values on its head. God blesses weakness and lowliness. God puts down all power and pomp. (2 Cor.11:30, 12:5-9)

The warning against presumptuousness.

James concludes with an applicatory warning. God wants us to be effectual doers of the word and not ineffectual hearers only. 

V.17 This is a warning against not obeying what God through James just wrote. The idea is “now that you have been warned” you must obey in these things. (I Sam.12:23)

Oh Beloved, the book of James is God calling us to live out the faith that we express. The book of James is calling us to live lives worthy of the high calling of Jesus Christ. Let us speak think and speak in such a way that brings glory to Christ. May we decrease and may Christ increase. Not as we will, but as God wills. Let’s humble ourselves before God and submit all to Him.

Amen

Study Questions

  1. Define presumptuousness. Use synonyms and antonyms. (James 4:13-16, Prov.27:2, Jer.9:23, 2 Tim.3:1-5, Prov.27:1, I Cor.4:7, Ps.94:4, Prov.25:14)
  1. What is the relationship between our heart (our thoughts and affections) and our words? What do presumptuous words indicate about the nature of our heart? Or the spiritual wellbeing of our heart? (Mt.12:32-37, Prov.4:23, Prov.10:11, Prov.15:7, Ps.14:1)
  1. What is the connection between slanderous words and then presumptuous words? Hint. How do “Pharisees” speak of others? How do “Pharisees” speak of self? How do you speak of others? How do you speak of self? (James 4:10-11, James 4:13-16, Lk.18:9-14, Mt.5:20, Jn.7:48-49)
  1. Are all desires (and plans) to prosper materially, financially, and physically necessarily wrong or sinful? Give examples of right and holy desires for these things. (Prov.6:6-11, 3 Jn.1:2, I Sam.1:9-28, Gen. 30:30; 1 Tim. 5:8; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1-5; Exod. 23:4,5; Gen. 47:14,20, Mt.6:11)
  1. How is presumptuousness as expressed in our passage an example of the idolatry of self? How is this an idolatry of this world? How is this an inordinate preoccupation with the things of this world? What does it say about the nature and the focus of the heart? (James 4:1-10, I Jn.2:15-17, Lk.12:17-18, Phil.3:19, Mt.13:22, Mt.24:37-39, Lk.17:26-29, Lk.14:16-19, Col.3:1-3)
  1. How does presumptuousness (practically) deny the existence of God, or of His sovereignty, or of His providence? Give examples from the OT and the NT of people that were presumptuous? What do we learn by these examples? (Dan.4:28-33, Exod.15:11, Judges 5:28-30, I Kg.20:10-11, Lk.12:13-21, Mt.26:69-75, Jn.18:15-27, Mk.14:66-72, Lk.22:54-62)
  1. Have you ever been presumptuous in a similar way as expressed in James 4:13-17? Did God correct you? How? Did you learn from the correction? What did you learn? (Heb.12:1-11)
  1. How does thinking on God cure our presumptuousness? Who governs all? How does this cure our presumptuousness? How do we set our minds above? How do we first seek His kingdom? How does this cure our presumptuousness? (Acts 18:19-21, I Cor.4:16-20, I Cor.16:5-9, Phil.2:19-24, Heb.6:3, Mt.6:9-13, Col.3:1-3, Mt.6:19-34)
  1. How does thinking on our own mortality cure our presumptuousness? (James 4:13-16, Ps.37:2, Ps.102:3, Ps.103:15, 2 Kg.19:26, Isa.40:6-8, Hosea 13:3, I Pt.1:24, Ps.90:2-10)
  1. How does thinking on Christ and about our salvation in Christ cure our boastful carnal presumptuousness? How should we think and speak and act in light of these things?  (Mt.20:28, Jn.13:1-17, Mt.11:29, Phil.2:1-11, I Cor.6:9-11, I Jn.1:7)

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