Those with a P (“perceiving”) in their Myers-Briggs personality type may try to use James 4:13–15 to denounce all planning. The idea can even be bolstered by the Sermon on the Mount, right? “Do not worry about tomorrow…” (Matt. 6:34) means, “Don’t even think about it,” so planning for the future and reaching toward the unknown is a Christian taboo. Right? Ah, no. Actually, like the latter verses of Matthew 6, planning is not being denounced here in James, but a harmful posture of the heart while planning is.

While there is a type of planning for organizational purposes, there is also a type of planning that grasps at control it can never have. James is warning against losing sight of the lack of control humanity has over the future, and even the lack of foreknowledge. He encourages his listeners to remember that their lives are “even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Don’t pretend that you are immortal or all-wise, he warns, and a good heart-check for you to do is to see how you go about your planning.

How can His children adjust their plans to acknowledge God and their frailty? To set plans with an understanding of their dependence on Him, “instead [they] ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’ ” (v. 15). Plans are all right; they just have to be made in the context of God’s will and providence, leaning on Him as is always needed in the past, present, or future, being willing to change or even give up on these plans if God’s leading so directs.

The converse is continuing in one’s own way, boasting in arrogance, thinking that one knows everything, can control everything, and has no need of consulting or depending on God for future plans. This is not only harmful, but it also departs from reality. As has been shown in earlier lessons this week, this is why a balanced and biblical view of oneself is paramount. Thinking too little or too highly of oneself warps reality, because there are ripple effects based on one’s grasp of one’s own identity. “Lord willing” should not be used as a simple cliché that’s appended to what was being planned anyway. What is needed is a posture of the heart that bows in submission to God’s enduring love and vast knowledge, that trusts He will do what’s best even when He’s painting on a larger canvas than His child can immediately see. “If the Lord wills” means the plans are only desired if the Lord wills, because He is more trustworthy than emotions or short-sighted understanding.