James 4:13 – The Boast

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”


Okay, so the merchants are laying out a business plan, right? What’s wrong with that? I mean, we all plan for the future. We all plan for school, the type of career we want to have after college, and what type of life we want to live. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that just something that we have to do since we don’t know the future?

Unfortunately there is a problem. What’s wrong with the way that I’m thinking? Or, more importantly, what was wrong with what the merchants planned to do in the city that they wanted to visit?

First, as creature we are very limited in our knowledge of what’s going to happen next, we find ourselves always planning to do things that are not for certain to us because we do not know what the future holds. That is James’ first response to these merchants.

Now, I’m sure they might readily admit that they don’t really know the future. But James wants them to realize that they are doing something when they speak the way they speak. They are thinking a certain way and it isn’t good.

So, what is the merchants’ problem? Read 1 Timothy 1:8-10

Just like Paul reminds Timothy, James is seeking to show his readers that some of them do not have sound doctrine. Even more, I want us to realize that these letters in the New Testament mean to tell us that life and doctrine are one. They are a not two separate things. If one is wrong, so is the other. If one is right, so is the other.

We can’t be people who say things like, “Oh, doctrine isn’t important, we just need to be good to each other and love each other.” Well, not only is that a doctrinal statement, but that person is telling us that our lives can somehow be honoring to God without the truth of God radically infecting our lives through power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I understand that plenty of people who are asked specific questions about God can spout off the right answer. But during the rest of their daily lives their speech and actions do not line up with their answer in any way. They might comprehend something that is true Biblically, but their heart and life have not been changed by it. This poses a serious problem.

Take one man I know… If I ask him things specifically about Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross, he can tell me that Jesus died for peoples sins. Okay, that’s all well and good, but the rest of the day I hear him saying Jesus this and Jesus that, and it’s not very reverent… if you catch my drift.

This person does not have sound doctrine. In a similar, though different situation, these merchants that James was speaking to did not have sound doctrine. Why? Because their actions were not in accordance with the Gospel they had been told.

For all intents and purposes these merchants were acting like ‘practical atheists’ in the way they spoke about what they were going to do with their lives. [A practical atheist is someone who lives their life as if their was no higher being or authority such as God] This is just as bad as the people that James was addressing before this passage who were slandering their neighbor. (James 4:11-12) But the merchants aren’t doing something against their neighbor here; they are doing something against God. They are failing to love God with all their mind, heart, soul and strength. They are forgetting that God created and sustains the universe by the word of His power. These merchants are acting like they didn’t know what Paul told the men of Athens – for “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

But, if we are Christians, as I believe these merchants were… then we are suppose to know this!

So, how does James correct this bad doctrine? Where does he start? Check back for the answer in the next post.

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,