Tonight we finished studying James 4, by looking at verses 13-17. Here, the theme of humility we studied in the preceding verses is contrasted with arrogance, for those who are arrogant think they can make plans with no regard to or thought of God. Such boasting about tomorrow and making elaborate plans is futile (see Luke 12 and the Parable of the Rich Fool). All our plans should be made with an eye to God’s will and an openness to have Him direct us and guide us, for He ultimately is the giver and sustainer of all life.
A right view of ourselves (especially when considering eternity) will keep us humble and help us to acknowledge that all we have and are comes directly from God. We need to seek first God’s kingdom and lay aside treasure in heaven (see Matt 6:19-21), rather than allowing the world’s love of money to rub off on us. Godliness with contentment is great gain (see 1 Tim 6:6-10), but it is all too easy to allow all kinds of greed to take over our lives.
James concludes by reminding us that we can sin by omission as well as by commission: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:17) Once our eyes have been opened to the good we ought to do, then it is sinful not to do good. Just as all boasting and bragging is evil because it raises ourselves to the status which belongs rightfully only to God, “if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.” (The Message) James concludes this chapter with his usual forthright commands which pierce our complacency and show us what true religion really looks like.