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The Folly of Arrogance


This little study based on Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of James and posted by Stephen Sizer, hit home personally. Last month I had jotted down these opening words in an old journal,

This week while searching for a book, I came upon this journal. Opening it to the last entry I noticed it had been over 10 years since I’d recorded anything. Perhaps it’s time to pick it up again? We’ll see….

Many things have changed over the last 10 years. Reading back over earlier entries brought home the fact of how much even I have changed. The person who wrote the words in this book 13 to 10 years ago, seemed more sure concerning the future. And the world? The world has changed a lot also, and not for the better. 

There have been many drastic, dramatic changes: that would be how I would choose to explain the last 10 years; in the world in general and in my personal world. …..

From Stephen Sizer’s website, excerpts from The Folly of Arrogance 

sandcastle-washed-away“A little boy is on the beach. On his knees he scoops the sand with his plastic shovel into a bright red bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created.

All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. A sandcastle will be built. Bottle tops will be sentries. Lollipop sticks will be bridges. Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic. A man in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made. All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built. Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape sand into structures. They create something from nothing. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come. Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches. As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap.

There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his bucket and spade, takes his father’s hand, and goes home. The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle, he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he shouts at the incoming tide. “This is my castle,” he defies. But the ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs… Watch children building sandcastles and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child’s heart. When the sun sets and the tides take — applaud. Salute the process of life, take your Father’s hand and go home.”

What is your motivation in life? On what are you placing your security?

Without a God-given purpose to shape our life, we lack balance and perspective. We become driven by destructive forces. For some it is ambition. For others it is the desire to please. For most it is the accumulation of wealth and possessions that seemingly brings security. In our reading from James… we are going to discover three different responses to the will and purpose of God. Only one will give ultimate peace and security.

1. The Foolishness of Ignoring God’s Will

James probably has in mind those in the church family who aspired to be successful business people. He challenges their assumptions and motivation. James gives us three reasons why it is foolish to be arrogant about the future.

1.1 Life is Uncertain

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14a)

Life is made up of so many variables, like the weather we cannot accurately predict even tomorrow. Life is uncertain.

1.2 Life is Brief

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (4:14b)

We count our birthdays in years but God tells us to count our days.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:2)

“As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:15-17)

We must learn to measure life as God measures it – in days like grass. Why? Because we can only live one day at a time. Since life is brief, we cannot afford to “spend our lives”; and we certainly do not want to “waste our lives.” We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal. Because life is uncertain. Because life is brief. And because,

1.3 Life is in God’s Hands

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15).

Boasting is folly because our lives are in God’s hands not our own.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Thomas A’Kempis once said “Man proposes but God disposes.” To ignore God’s will is like trying to cross a stormy sea without a compass or GPS. Knowing and trusting the will of God is not an option, it is an obligation for the Christian. Three reasons: Because life is uncertain. Because life is brief. And because life is in God’s hands. The foolishness of ignoring God’s will. James also warns of,

2. The Perils of Disobeying God’s Will

“As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:16-17)

James is quoting the Book of Proverbs.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)

He may also have had in mind the parable of Jesus about the rich fool in Luke 12.

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 6:16-20)

I once had a solicitor friend who moved into a bigger house opposite his old house. He had to temerity to call it “The bigger barn”. His marriage eventually fell apart as did his Christian allegiance.

In the film With God on our Side, Pastor John Hagee says “If Christians and Jews can unite … we can control the future.” That sounds just a little arrogant to me.

Why would we deliberately disobey God? Because we think we can get away with it – that the will of God is something we can accept or reject. In reality, the will of God is not an option; it is an obligation. We cannot “take it or leave it.” Because He is our Creator and we are his creatures, we must obey Him. Because He is our Saviour and Lord, and we are His children and servants, we have all the more reason to trust His perfect will.

To treat the will of God lightly is to invite the discipline of God.

“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10).

And if we resist that discipline, we are in danger of losing our eternal reward (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Disobeying God today may not seem a serious thing, especially if we do not immediately face the consequences, but it will appear very serious when the Lord returns and examines our works in public (Colossians 3:22-25). The foolishness of ignoring God’s will. The perils of disobeying God’s will,

3. The Wisdom of Obeying God’s Will

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

That is why we must always add the conditional clause to our plans, verse 15, “If the Lord wills”. It is time we revived the old tradition of adding DV to all our publicity. DV is from the Latin ‘Deo Volente’. “If God wills” is more than a spiritual slogan. It is an attitude of heart that is to dominate our lives as it did Jesus.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

What work has he sent you to do? Then finish that work. As long as I live, I know I have work to do, and as long as you live you do too. Whether here or elsewhere because there is no unemployment in the Kingdom of God.

In James 4 we have seen, The foolishness of ignoring God’s will. The perils of disobeying God’s will. The wisdom of obeying God’s will.

What is his will? The will of God is about knowing God through Jesus Christ. We know God by becoming like Jesus. We become like Jesus by following Jesus. We follow Jesus by obeying Jesus. If you visit the seaside this Summer look out for children building sand castles and remember that Jesus said

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).

Go ahead and plan and build, but remember to build with a child’s heart.

With grateful thanks to Warren Wiersbe for his commentary on James.

*The video containing Stephen Sizer’s message can be viewed at the link (above), as well as the complete message.

You may be wondering why this message touched me so, and why I included an excerpt from my journal concerning change. Looking back I can see (though I never would have believe it at the time) that in many ways, I was arrogant in believing things would always continue on as they were…that I would work, make plans (my plans) for the future, and continue on as usual. Little did I know that shortly after that last entry in 2003 my health would fail and the company I’d worked for, for many years, would suddenly close down and I’d be without a job. Life is truly uncertain folks…but where-ever it takes us if we are seeking God’s will, we can be certain He is leading us in the right path: His path. That path may lead us to experience loss. But that too may be His will for us. It most certainly WILL lead us through changes…some good, others maybe not so good. If I’ve learned anything in the past 10 years it’s to hold on to everything “lightly”…except God. He, I cling to for dear life with the knowledge that whatever else changes, He never will.  

4 comments on “The Folly of Arrogance

  1. I am using the sandcastle picture for my Blog today, linking it to this page. Thanks for the writing and the picture.

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