Presumption Even in Little Things
Presumption is one of those subtle sins; that is, we presume over matters over which we have no control and do so without even knowing that we are doing it. That’s what makes it so hard to detect: One can’t commit adultery without knowing it, or steal, or lie. But presumption is different. We presume as a matter of course as we plan to do things. Now planning in and of itself is not wrong; planning without acknowledging the Lord’s providence in all our affairs, without seeking God’s direction, without beseeching His blessing—that is wrong and as such is sin.
So James begins with “Come now.” He will do this again in just a few verses. It is almost as if he were laughing at the foolishness of the people he is about to convict. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” Silly, isn’t it? James considers it silly because no one knows what tomorrow may bring. These people don’t understand that their lives are but a breath, a mist, here today and gone tomorrow. But worse, God considers it sin because such an attitude manifests pride. It is arrogant to presume that we have tomorrow; it is impudence to assume that we shall work and make a profit. Tomorrow, health, and profit only come with the Lord’s blessing and in no other way. For this reason, the humble man says to himself, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.” Any other attitude comes of evil.
Really? I’m supposed to lay every decision before the Lord, every move I make? Of course not! God gave us brains and expects us to use them to make wise decisions. The point is to live our lives before the Lord, to know that every blessing comes from Him; or, as Proverbs says over and again, “Fear the Lord,” acknowledge Him, keep Him ever in the forefront of your minds that your attitudes, words, and actions will conform to His will. That is all James is saying—but it is a lot.
And to forget to do this is sin: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Presumption is a sin we commit; but it is closely related to sins in which we omit the good we should do; specifically, walking humbly before Him and acknowledging Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). Such an attitude will be blessed by the Lord. Then, maybe, our plans will succeed; maybe we shall make a profit. But even if we don’t, we will have gone with the Lord, and that is profit enough all by itself.