Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brave and brilliant pastor, theologian, Nazi-resistance participant, and author. One of his quotes recently shed light on a difficult Bible passage for me. The verses are from the book of James:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. – James 4:13 – 17 (NKJV)
We could understand this passage to mean that God does not want us to make plans. Another interpretation is that we should say the magic words, “If the Lord wills” before speaking of any future event. Or it could be a warning not to be so proud as to assume we know our entire future. I didn’t know what to think until I read the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The quote is almost a paraphrase of this passage from James.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps- reading the Bible… it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I think this is the central message of these verses. God wants us to remain flexible and open to change in case He wants to steer us in a new direction. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for good works. The hard part is realizing those good works won’t always fit neatly into our schedule.
Posted on Thu, January 29, 2015
by Shawnna Casazza filed under