Lord, give us the grace to know your will and the humility to submit to it in all things.
This verse comes at the end of a brief discourse about the error of presumption. Arrogance is the product of overarching pride. It is an ancient and universal truth that, “pride goeth before the fall.” We see this wisdom revealed both in scripture and in classical literature from around the world. James is warning us here against making this mistake ourselves.
It is a great grace to finally realize that one is nothing in comparison to God. We sometimes get caught up in thinking that we are important, that things will not happen without us. We forget that we are completely dependent on God, that our real, eternal success, or failure, is shaped by our willingness to submit to God’s will, or not. Life is, in fact, uncertain. We often have very little control over what happens. In truth, the only thing we have any real control over is our response to life’s uncertainties.
James reminds us in these few lines that, in reality, we are but, “a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.” (verse 14) In place of arrogance, then, we should take on the virtue of humility. We should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” (verse 15) In reality, even in our great successes, we have no right, or reason, to be boastful. All of our talents and abilities come from God. And all the good things that come about from the proper use of our talents and abilities, in accord with his will, come from God. If we boast that we did it all on our own, we are fools. Indeed, “All such boasting is evil.” (verse 16)
As Christians, we have been given the ability to know what is good and what is right to do through the scriptures and through the life of Jesus Christ. To know what is right to do, and to do it, honors God and the life of Jesus. To know what is right and then not to do it, because of fear, or because of arrogance, can be nothing less than sin. What is right is correspondingly good. To know the good and to refuse to do it out of selfish, or arrogant reasons, always results in negative, destructive, and hurtful things. To do this is to forget another ancient wisdom, “What goes around, comes around.” Deeds have consequences. While it seems that the arrogant often “get away with murder,” and appear to live the high life here on earth, no one escapes the final judgment. What the arrogant do, or do not do, is not our concern, though. We are to be watchful over our own attitudes in all things. It is for the sake of our own souls that we are to remain true to what we know to be good in the eyes of God.
Lord, give us the grace to know your will and the humility to submit to it in all things. Help us to recognize that all that is good in our lives is pure gift from you, and to give you thanks by always choosing to do what we know to be right and good in your name. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
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