Sometimes the things we plan just don’t work out. People back out, unforeseen tragedy hits, or unexpected problems arise, and the things we set out to do just don’t happen.
We’ve all been there. It’s a fact of life that things are going to happen that we don’t or can’t anticipate. To think that we have planned for every contingency, and thus what we expect must happen, is arrogant.
That’s the reality James uses to help show a problem each one of us struggles with: arrogance. He says,
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
– James 4:13-17
These verses, along with the preceding context of chapter 4, reveal that arrogance is at the root of many of the problems we face. In verses 1-10, James tells us that our own arrogance leads to us to pray selfishly. In verses 11-12, we’re warned about the arrogance of looking down on others. In 13-16, James reminds us that the sin of arrogance rears its ugly head when we think we have the future worked out. In verse 17, we’re told that when we know what to do (i.e., to humbly serve others) but do otherwise, then we’re committing sin.
In many ways and in many areas of our lives, we often show arrogance.
Arrogance: Guilty as Charged
As I read these verses, I remembered that I, like each one of us, struggles with pride. I can come across as arrogant, egotistical, and snooty, despite my struggle with depression. I’m not innocent. I’m guilty as charged.
After reading these verses and recalling my own sin, I immediately asked God to forgive me for that and to show me where I’m arrogant.
Now, I could sit here and think I’m fixed and no longer prideful. The sad truth is, though, that I will most likely act out of arrogance again in the future. I don’t want to, but I probably will. Why? Because of my sin nature. So, what do I do?
Avoid Arrogance by Concentrating on Christ
The only way for me to avoid being arrogant is to do four things:
- Remember that I am a sinner who earned the death penalty. I need to remind myself (or be reminded of who I am: a condemned sinner (cf. Rom 3:9-20).
- Remember that I am forgiven and sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus shed his blood to pay for sin and to make righteous those who put their faith in him alone. I am forgiven, not because of my goodness, but because of God’s grace! I am purified by Jesus’ blood as an act of grace, received through faith (cf. Rom 3:21-26).
- Daily sacrifice the old, sinful man at the altar of the cross. Every day, I need to repent of my sin (sadly, I sin each day, even if just in my thoughts or motives). I need to give up my own life and strive to serve God and serve those around me. I need to live out the love I have for God and for others (cf. Rom 12:1-13).
- Continue to know, show, and share the gospel of Jesus. As a believer in Jesus, I need to have an ever-growing relationship with him. I also need to keep showing God’s love to others by serving them, and I need to evangelize (cf. Rom 13:8-14).
I’m certain that I’m not alone on this journey. I’m convinced that anyone who thinks they don’t ever struggle with arrogance is in fact arrogant. What do you do to remain humble?
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