Today is the Gift you have been Given
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our text for this Sunday from James 4:13-17 may be just the medicine we need in this time of uncertainty in elections. James is a steady voice for wisdom. When it comes to our plans for the future he says, “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” This echoes the wisdom spoken about in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and in the focused teaching of Jesus about worry.
What at first may seem like a depressing statement by James is actually a doorway to freedom. Last week James gave us 10 commands in 4 verses. Ways we can actively participate in a relationship with God and engage the world around us through effort and striving. And now, immediately after, he encourages us to assume a posture of humility, gratitude, generosity and praise. These are postures of receiving each day with open hands.
James uses strong language in his teachings and this passage is no different. When we ‘boast’ in our plans about the future, he calls it ‘arrogant and evil.’ It emphasizes the contrast he already developed for us between ‘earthly wisdom’ and ‘heavenly wisdom.’ Earthly wisdom is characterized by pride and selfish ambition. Heavenly wisdom is characterized by humility and submission to God’s will. And James nails it in 4:15. With any plans for the future, with any striving and effort of ours, we ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.” Growing up in my Michigan faith community, this was said often at the end of conversations and spoken at the end of many prayers, “Lord willing.” It communicates powerfully a posture of humility and open hands.
Brothers and sisters, everyday is a gift from God, full of potential plans and personal desires. On this day, simply ‘submit yourselves to God.’ Live life with open hands, receiving the day God has given. Everyday is an opportunity for open hands – in humility with our plans, in generosity with one another, and in gratitude and praise toward God. As of the day after the election, the day of this weekly writing no ‘winner’ has been declared in the Presidential election. I’ll take James’ lead in this, it doesn’t change, I will “Submit myself to God.” So I’m off to volunteer. Then lunch with a friend. Do some writing for the message for Sunday. Maybe some exercise. Haul away some broken tree limbs with my neighbor. Dinner with Deone. A phone call with Anna. And when my head hits the pillow, say, “Thank you Lord for the gift of this day… as for tomorrow? Tomorrow will take care of itself.” So many opportunities everyday to engage the world in love of God and neighbor. I plan to bring a message from Scripture this Sunday, November 8th, on James 4:13-17… “Lord willing.” :).