“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13–16).
WHEN WE DISREGARD THE REALITY OF GOD IN MAKING PLANS FOR OUR OWN ADVANCEMENT, WE COMMIT A SIN OF TRAGIC PRIDE. As the Tower of Babel illustrates (Genesis 11:1–9), it is disastrous to pursue human achievement without factoring God into our projections. God is the ultimate consideration in any decision we’ll ever need to make, and it is nothing short of sinful pride to pretend otherwise. “All such boasting is evil,” says James.
Herein lies what must be called the “arrogance” of human culture. When we simply leave God out of our calculations — whether philosophically, economically, scientifically, or otherwise — we “boast” of something that human beings, on their own, do not actually possess: the ability to discern what is ultimately good and bring it to pass. It only takes a moment’s reflection on the havoc wrought by human “progress” to see how powerless we are to predict what the human race will really need.
Centuries ago, a wise man made this observation: “I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). This doesn’t mean that we should simply give up and go with the flow, for the wise have always known that we should do the best we can in each situation, based on what calculations we can make. But many vital things are beyond our vision, and we’d be fools if we failed to heed this advice also: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). To fail to take God into account is to commit the ultimate human error. It is also to fall short of our greatest human glory: the reflection of God’s wisdom.
“The future is not yet ours; perhaps it never will be. If it comes, it may come wholly different from what we have foreseen. Let us shut our eyes, then, to that which God hides from us, and keeps in reserve in the treasures of his deep counsels. Let us worship without seeing; let us be silent; let us abide in peace” (François Fénelon).