"If the Lord Wills"


"Come now, those saying, Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and we will spend one year there, and we will trade and will make a profit, who do not know of the morrow. For what [is] your life? For it is a mist, which for a little [while] appears, and then disappears. Instead of you saying, If the Lord wills, even we will live, and we will do this or that; but now you boast in your presumptions. All such boasting is evil." (James 4:13-16)

All believers need to get into the habit of saying "If the Lord wills" when we talk about doing something in the future. God says that if we say we will do something in the future without saying "If the Lord wills," then this is boasting in presumptions. None of us know what will happen in the future or that we will do something in the future, and by saying "If the Lord wills," we are outwardly acknowledging that. If we do not say "If the Lord wills," then we are giving the impression that we know for sure that something will happen in the future, that we will do something in the future.

Let me give a practical example and show you what wording we should be using. Suppose I am planning to buy some cheese tomorrow. If I say, "I'm going to buy some cheese tomorrow," I am sinning the sin of presumption. I need to say, "If the Lord wills, I'm going to buy some cheese tomorrow." But what do I say if I use the word "plan" or "planning"? This is where some grammatical instruction comes in. Your planning is something that is current. Thus, to say, "If the Lord wills, I'm planning to buy some cheese tomorrow" doesn't make sense, because you are talking about a present event that is occurring as you speak. It would be like saying, "If the Lord wills, I'm typing on the computer right now." So it is proper to leave out "If the Lord wills" if you are speaking of something you are doing right now, such as planning. So "I'm planning to buy some cheese tomorrow" is proper, because your sentence is about your planning (present), not your buying (future). Does that make sense? We should still use "If the Lord wills, I will do this" instead of "I'm planning to do this" given the context and circumstances.

Let's think of a situation where people use "If the Lord wills" as an excuse to get out of the responsibility of doing something that the person said he was going to do. Suppose someone says, "If the Lord wills, I will meet you at 3:00 pm tomorrow." That is the proper wording. Yet this person could use this to be slack about being on time. He could be thinking, "Since I said, 'If the Lord wills,' that means that I could show up at 3:00 or at 3:10 or at 3:20 or at 3:30, and no one could say I'm not a man of my word. Who knows - if the Lord wills it, I'll be there on time, or I'll be a half hour late." Now that, too, is sinful. By saying "If the Lord wills," this does not mean that you're not going to try your hardest or do your best to do what you say you're going to do or be at a place when you say you're going to be at a place. (And I could go into another post just about the sin of tardiness. Yes, it is a sin, because you are expected to be and committed to be somewhere at a certain time and show up late, which is actually the sin of lying.) However, just because some people use "If the Lord wills" in this sinful way does not mean we can just discard it when we're talking about showing up somewhere. We should still say, "If the Lord wills, I will be at such and such a place at such and such a time," and then we should do our best to fulfill our obligation. If something unforeseen happens that makes us late, then the "If the Lord wills" has kept us from lying. For example, suppose someone says, "I will meet you at 3:00 pm tomorrow," and then something unexpected happens that makes that person late. That makes the "I will meet you at 3:00 pm tomorrow" a lie, no matter if the circumstances that made the person late were foreseen or unforeseen. "I will meet you at 3:00 pm tomorrow" is a definite statement that something will definitely happen in the future, and it is a sinful statement. Again, the rule of "planning" applies here as well. You can say, "I'm planning to meet you at 3:00 pm tomorrow" without the "If the Lord wills" in front of it, because you are talking about the current event of planning. But again, given the context and circumstances, we shouldn't always use the "planning" sentence in the place of the "If the Lord wills" sentence.


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