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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Arrogance in Attitude (4:15-16)
Arrogance in Attitude (4:15-16)

This life of reliance on God runs far deeper than the words we say, and care should be taken to apply James's words deeply and honestly. First, it would be a superficial spirituality to think that James's instruction is fulfilled merely by sprinkling our speech with "the Lord willing." At the same time, we should not judge those who do use this phrase; if it is done humbly as a way to keep oneself reminded of God's sovereignty, it can be a godly practice. Second, it would be a deformed spirituality to apply this by refusing to do any planning; 4:15 affirms the validity of planning to do this or that. Motyer writes, "James is not trying to banish planning from our lives, but only that sort of self-sufficient, self-important planning that keeps God for Sunday but looks on Monday to Saturday as mine" (1985:161). The spirituality James wants for us is a humble reliance on God which flows from knowing that one is in reality dependent on God for every moment. It is yet another example of how James would envision the manifestation of grace-reliance in our lives.

The sin of self-sufficiency is a serious matter. You boast is kauchasthe, a verb that can have a positive meaning, as in Romans 5:11 and 1 Corinthians 1:3, but clearly has a negative emphasis here. The NIV's and brag is actually not a second verb in the text but a prepositional phrase "in your arrogance" (cf. NASB). Moo (1985:157) points out that such a phrase in the New Testament, with the preposition en following this verb kauchasthe, always refers to the object of the boasting (for example, boasting in one's high position as in 1:9). This makes the arrogance not merely the manner of their boasting but rather the object of their boasting. The sin James is exposing is not merely a sin of omission (neglecting to recognize God's rule over their affairs); it is a sin of commission in that they even boast about their self-sufficiency. Such boasting, kauchesis, is therefore especially evil; further, all such boasting is evil. It is a blasphemous denial of God's authority and grace to think that we instead of God control events.

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