The Folly of Arrogance

“A little boy is on the beach. On his knees he scoops the sand with his plastic shovel into a bright red bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created.

All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. A sandcastle will be built. Bottle tops will be sentries. Lollipop sticks will be bridges. Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic. A man in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made. All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built. Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape sand into structures. They create something from nothing. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come. Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches. As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap.

There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his bucket and spade, takes his father’s hand, and goes home. The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle, he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he shouts at the incoming tide. “This is my castle,” he defies. But the ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs… Watch children building sandcastles and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child’s heart. When the sun sets and the tides take — applaud. Salute the process of life, take your Father’s hand and go home.”[1]

What is your motivation in life? On what are you placing your security? A few years ago we examined what the scriptures teach about the Purpose Driven Life. Rick Warren identifies five purposes God intends to be the driving force in our life.

1. We were planned for God’s pleasure – to know him and love him;
2. We were formed for God’s family – to find a home and family;
3. We were created to become like Christ – with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control;
4. We were shaped for serving God – with a unique mix of talents, skills and passion;
5. We were made for a mission – to introduce other people to God’s five purposes for their lives too.[2]

Without a God-given purpose to shape our life, we lack balance and perspective. We become driven by destructive forces. For some it is ambition. For others it is the desire to please. For most it is the accumulation of wealth and possessions that seemingly brings security. In our reading from James this morning we are going to discover three different responses to the will and purpose of God. Only one will give ultimate peace and security.

1. The Foolishness of Ignoring God’s Will 

James probably has in mind those in the church family who aspired to be successful business people. He challenges their assumptions and motivation. James gives us three reasons why it is foolish to be arrogant about the future.

1.1 Life is Uncertain

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14a)

Life is made up of so many variables, like the weather we cannot accurately predict even tomorrow. Life is uncertain.

1.2 Life is Brief

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (4:14b)

We count our birthdays in years but God tells us to count our days.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:2)

“As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:15-17)

We must learn to measure life as God measures it – in days like grass. Why? Because we can only live one day at a time. Since life is brief, we cannot afford to “spend our lives”; and we certainly do not want to “waste our lives.” We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal. Because life is uncertain. Because life is brief. And because,

1.3 Life is in God’s Hands

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15).

Boasting is folly because our lives are in God’s hands not our own.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Thomas A’Kempis once said “Man proposes but God disposes.” To ignore God’s will is like trying to cross a stormy sea without a compass or GPS. Knowing and trusting the will of God is not an option, it is an obligation for the Christian. Three reasons: Because life is uncertain. Because life is brief. And because life is in God’s hands. The foolishness of ignoring God’s will. James also warns of,

2. The Perils of Disobeying God’s Will

“As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:16-17)

James is quoting the Book of Proverbs.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)

He may also have had in mind the parable of Jesus about the rich fool in Luke 12.

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 6:16-20)

I once had a solicitor friend who moved into a bigger house opposite his old house. He had to temerity to call it “The bigger barn”. His marriage eventually fell apart as did his Christian allegiance.

In the film With God on our Side, Pastor John Hagee says “If Christians and Jews can unite … we can control the future.” That sounds just a little arrogant to me.

Why would we deliberately disobey God? Because we think we can get away with it – that the will of God is something we can accept or reject. In reality, the will of God is not an option; it is an obligation. We cannot “take it or leave it.” Because He is our Creator and we are his creatures, we must obey Him. Because He is our Saviour and Lord, and we are His children and servants, we have all the more reason to trust His perfect will.

To treat the will of God lightly is to invite the discipline of God. “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10). And if we resist that discipline, we are in danger of losing our eternal reward (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Disobeying God today may not seem a serious thing, especially if we do not immediately face the consequences, but it will appear very serious when the Lord returns and examines our works in public (Colossians 3:22-25). The foolishness of ignoring God’s will. The perils of disobeying God’s will.

3. The Wisdom of Obeying God’s Will

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

That is why we must always add the conditional clause to our plans, verse 15, “If the Lord wills”.  It is time we revived the old tradition of adding DV to all our publicity. DV is from the Latin ‘Deo Volente’. “If God wills” is more than a spiritual slogan. It is an attitude of heart that is to dominate our lives as it did Jesus.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

What work has he sent you to Virginia Water to do? Then finish that work. I was sent here 15 years ago to do a work. It was clear to the Bishop and the church leaders also. Those who didn’t agree resigned! Is our work finished? Has every person in Virginia Water had multiple opportunities to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and respond? Is every member of Christ Church fully mature like Christ? Have we fulfilled our 2020 Vision? No, then there is still work to do isn’t there?

As long as I live, I know I have work to do, and as long as you live you do too. Whether here or elsewhere because there is no unemployment in the Kingdom of God.  What roles has he given you to fulfil here at Christ Church? That is the reason for the People Pledge today. In December we have our annual Financial Pledge. We invite everyone who regards themselves as members of Christ Church to pray and then pledge what they believe the Lord would have them give for the year ahead. That is because it is biblical to make provision for the future. It is prudent to budget. And it is spiritual to tithe in faith. Today we are doing the same with our time and talents.

We invite you to pray and ask God how he would have you invest your time and talents in serving him in and through Christ Church for the year ahead, beginning in September. Please complete the pledge form today and place it in the box or collection plate. As with our financial pledge, remember it is contingent on those two little letters DV – if the Lord wills. What matters is that we obey, step out in faith and make ourselves available. In James 4 we have seen,

The foolishness of ignoring God’s will.
The perils of disobeying God’s will.
The wisdom of obeying God’s will.

What is his will? The will of God is about knowing God through Jesus Christ. We know God by becoming like Jesus. We become like Jesus by following Jesus. We follow Jesus by obeying Jesus. If you visit the seaside this Summer look out for children building sand castles and remember that Jesus said ““Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). Go ahead and plan and build, but remember to build with a child’s heart. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). May he give you the desires of your heart today as you delight yourself in Him. Let’s pray.

Pathway to Spiritual Maturity (James): Summer 2013

Some Assembly Required (James 1:1-12)
How to Handle Temptation (James 1:13-18)
Transformed by Truth (James 1:17-27)
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (James 2:14-26)
The Tongue and How to Control it (James 3:1-12)
How to be Wise (James 3:13-18)
To End all Wars (James 4:1-12)
The Folly of Arrogance (James 4:13-17)
The Three Peas of Wealth (James 5:1-8)

With grateful thanks to Warren Wiersbe for his commentary on James.

[1] Max Lucado, More Stories for the Heart (Multnomah: Sisters, Oregon, 1997), 224-225.

[2] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan 2002).