Yesterday and the day before that I thought about some commercial
activities I wanna get myself into. And I had to think about if that
sorta planning and intending is alright in God’s sight or not. As I
knew of some verses which say something hereunto but I wouldn’t
understand. Me thinks I got some better conception now. Here are these

(13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go
to such and such a town, stay there a year, conduct business, and make
money.” (14) You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your
life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
(15) Instead you should say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live—and
do this or that.” (16) But you boast about your proud intentions. All
such boasting is evil. [James
4:13-16 ISV

The Int’l Standard Version cited here preemptively takes you on the
right track. Until yesterday I had the following conception based on a
German translation [James
4:15 GerElb1905
]: it depends on the concrete will of God if we live
another day, and God might want that or the opposite for us; and
likewise for what God wants us to do concretely; so only in the
incident when God wants us to live another day and do what we
plan to it will come to pass. To me, this now smells like folk
religiousness. Let me explain why and then conclude with an alternative
(and grammatically justified) translation.

Men’s duality as a created creator

God created the human being to be “his image” [Genesis
1:26 ESV
]. According to the verse just quoted this means that man
should have dominion above all other things in this world – just as God
has dominion above all things in the whole known and unknown universe.
Man resembles God in that the world is his universe. So man can be
called the “god in this world”, perhaps see [Psalms
82:6 ESV
] for that.

So man is in a complex relationship: in the direction toward God he
is the creature, and in the direction towards this world he is the
creator. As the creator, man can work and build and reach and govern
something; as a creature, he should know that he lives because of the
goodwill and grace of his creator. Sadly, his creator is invisible
while the things he can create are visible; which serves as a steady
temptation to deem oneself as creator only. Which obviously would not
be appropriate to reality.

Nonetheless, Adam tried it, and every human being since him: we
wanted to be just as God, a creator only, not just a humble creature.
It deems us unjust that God demands us to be humble creatures while he
allows himself to be creator only. But he does not! God is Father and
Son (and Spirit), and as such Creator and Creature in “personal union”.
So the error begins with the misconception of God when we want to be
“just as God”. What we want is to break “free” from love … we wanna
be egoistic, wanna have all for ourselves. This is not just confined to
the love relationship to our creator only, but affects also the
relationships to our wife or husband, to our children and to nature. So
the deepest cause of all of man’s problems is his rebellion … against

But: there is no way except love; where there is more than one
entity, there is society, and society without love does not work.
Between complimentary entities, love is respect in one direction and
care in the other; and every human being has part in many such
complimentary love relationships, so cannot complain that this is
unjust. Human beings are to respect God as their creator, yet care for
their fellows; husbands are to care for their wifes, while wifes are to
care for their children (here, in their natural, worthy role as mother,
which is being closest to the children). Children are to respect their
mother, and wifes are to respect their husband, and husbands are to
respect God. In Paul’s words:

Now I want you to realize that Christ is the head of every
man, and man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. [I
Corinthians 11:3 ISV

So man’s task is to live both things out at the same time, in love:
being creature and creator. In the directions towards God this demands
just obedience to love, and humbleness before God (in the most positive
sense of the word) [Micha
6:8 ESV
]. A lack of humbleness towards God might be expressed by
explicit rebellion. Or it might be expressed by a lifestyle that is
intended to convey complete independence from God, so as if we’d be
immortal by our own virtue. James denounces exactly this lifestyle in
the concerned passage [James
4:13-16 ISV
]. As an example of explicit rebellion against God
(hidden in all kinds of God-independent lifestyles) let’s have a look
at what is said about Nimrod and the Tower of Babylon after the deluge:

(2.) Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront
and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a
bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to
ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but
to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness.
He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other
way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a
constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on
God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he
would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and
that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!
(3.) Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of
Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and
they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree
negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands
employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect;
but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built,
that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it
really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar,
made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. [Flavius
Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, chapter. 4, paragraph. 2-3

There are many more interesting considerations about how to deal
with our createdness adequately. For example, James advises to express
an adequate, humble attitude towards our creator in some way [James
4:15 ISV
]. How can we do this today, without resenting to the
stereotypical religious expressions or the folk religiousness often
found in prayers before meals. Or, what the “tree of life” in paradise
means here: in my view, there is reason to think that only regular
eating from this tree’s fruit guaranteed eternal life and healing from
injuries and illnesses; thereby man was remembered of being dependent
(ultimately on God’s favor) and had no self-immanent eternal existence.
While by eating from the “tree of knowledge” man expressed the wish to
be independent “just like God” (with the misconception about God
implied that we discussed bove). Another thought: me thinks the book of
Ecclesiastes is a big advise how to live our createdness out adequately
… look for example at [Ecclesiastes
3:12-13 ESV
]. What do you think, guys 😉

James 4:15 re-understood

Now here’s how I would explain the verse I misunderstodd previously:

Instead you should say, “If the Lord wants us to live (as
he does, but it depends on that), we will live — will hopefully
do this or that.” [James 4:15 explained]

That’s because I conclude from context [James
4:14 ISV
] that John just wants people to recognize and live out
their createdness, i.e. our immanent transientness which is extended
day by day by the grace of our creator. James does not want to say that
God may want our death, but we must be conscient that God
wants our life [John
14:6 ISV
; I
John 5:11-12 ISV
; I
John 4:9 ISV
]. And that we live beauce God wants us to and not
because we want to. After all, we normally die not from God’s will but
from sin and a sinful world, that is, from our wish to be independent
of our creator’s sustaining grace. And he does not want to say that
what we can do concretely depends on what God wants us to: but the
freedom to be able to do “this or that” comes from God.

Start date: 2007-09-27
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

Leave a reply

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>