James 4:16

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. James 4:16

James is still speaking of the same subject which goes back to verse 13. It is the boasting which arises out of the assumption that we have the future in control, and that we can say, “Today or tomorrow we will do this and that.” Without including the Lord in the matter, we are boasting of possessing that to which we have no right to claim. As he noted in the previous verse, we should say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

However, we fail to do this. In our failure, he says, “But now you boast in your arrogance.” We have, in fact, attempted to lay hold of that which belongs to the Lord alone. It is boastful, and it is arrogant.

This is the final use of the word translated as “boastful” in the New Testament. It is a noun which has been used by Paul 10 times. It is variously translated as boasting, confidence, glorying, and rejoicing. It can be positive (about God’s grace) or negative (about self) based on the context. Here, it is obviously a negative boast.

The word translated as “arrogance” is found only here and in 1 John 2:16. It properly means “a vagabond (‘quack’), making empty boasts about having ‘cures’ to rid people of all their ills (even by producing ‘wonders,’ etc.)” (HELPS Word Studies). Such quackery attempts to set a person in a favorable light concerning matters of which he has no ability or authority.

In this state, James says that “All such boasting is evil.” This is so because it is based on a completely unfounded view of who we are as individuals. We are the created. We are the dependent. We are the unknowing. And yet, we speak in an evil way – as if we are in the place of God – grabbing onto a future which is wholly and solely at His authority. A single moment may destroy our hope of any future at all, and we are to therefore place our lives – from moment to moment – under the caring guidance of God. We are to submit ourselves to His unfurling of the sails which take us from the shores of the present into the endless expanse of the future which lies before us.

Life application: Why is boasting or bragging evil? Think it through and you will see. If a woman is exceptionally lovely, wasn’t it a gift of her birth? What if she highlights herself to look beautiful – then isn’t this temporary and false?

If someone is a natural musician, how can he brag about what he was born with? Suppose he worked hard to become a musician because he lacked natural talent – where did the time, circumstance, and drive to learn the skill come from?

If you are born into a wealthy family, what did you do to deserve it? But what if you became wealthy by playing the lottery – wasn’t this providence and beyond yourself? Or, what if you worked hard and made great wealth? Again, where did the ability, time, and circumstance come from to allow you to become rich?

It doesn’t matter what the issue, what the circumstance, or what the possession, it all ultimately came from one Source – the Creator. Likewise, each breath we take is from His goodness to us. Every heartbeat is under His control. If you don’t believe this, then go back and watch videos of the 911 attack, or click on any of a host of YouTube videos that caught death in the act. None of those people expected what was coming and their plans for the next moment were in vain. How much more tenuous are our long-term plans! Each moment is precious and every sunrise is a gift. Don’t squander your life pursuing the wind, but instead consider Solomon’s sound advice –

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
‘I have no pleasure in them.’”

From this, Solomon goes on to point out the many ways death arrives. Now is the time of God’s favor; remember Him now.

Forgive us O Lord for taking credit for the blessings You have provided. Forgive us also for boasting about a future which is within Your control alone. Give each of us a sound and wise attitude toward those things which You have provided. May we ever acknowledge that all things stem from You, belong to You, and are at Your disposal. Amen.

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