The Humble Path to Peace: Study Notes on James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

The theme of humility runs all through the book of James. And here it is brought to a very practical level. We are reminded how fragile life is. The steam that rises from my cup of coffee is beautiful both in the way it swirls and because I love coffee, but it doesn’t last long. Same with this life. Our reliance on God should be evident and acted upon. Boasting never sounds good and turns people away. There is envy that rises from the pride that is displayed. Humility and confidence is what Jesus portrayed. Humility in submission and confident in who God is and how He provides.

Jesus was God walking on this earth. He above anyone could have displayed total pride and self-reliance. He made confident statements about who He was and why He was sent to earth. Taken out of context, this can be seen as boasting. But He relied on and submitted to His Father while living in human form. There was no question about His devotion to God. And there should be no question about mine. My words and actions hold the weight of perception. What do people see in me? Do my words and actions display arrogance and selfishness? I hope not. At the very least I am more aware. At most, and what I hope for, is that I give God His rightful first place in my life and He is glorified so others can see His love and care in me. The latter will prevent the exhaustion of striving and usher in the peace in relying on God, knowing He will provide.

Lord, Thank You for the dreams and desires You have given space in my heart for. Shed Your light on the path forward so I know I am headed in the right direction. Help me to notice the everyday goodness, take care of the little things, and serve others along the way. Reveal the motives in my desires and help me notice where selfishness and pride need to be checked and dealt with. Give me wisdom and the ability to lead and live with a servant’s heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Before reading James, I was guided to Psalm 46. A perfect companion in my heart, so I am sharing:

Psalm 46 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

God the Refuge of His People.

For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.

46 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in [c]trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

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