As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (Jas 4:16)
James has touched on pride before but here he puts it in a different light. Those who believe that they will be able to accomplish the things they set out to do, and do not include God in those plans, are boasters of an arrogant kind. We know people like that but such a characteristic should never be named among Christians.
David serves as a good example of the good boasting. When told by Saul that he would not be able to beat Goliath, David responded:
And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1Sa 17:37)
There was not an arrogance about that but there was an anger that God’s name was being sullied by the Philistine and that no one else was doing anything about it. Boasting in the Lord and His power is one thing, boasting in our own abilities is another. David’s experience had led him to conclude that God would be with him and I don’t think he was being arrogant though his brothers seem to think so.
James is not through talking to the rich either but as we move through the text, we need to ask ourselves a question. Could I be among the rich that James is talking to? Do I plan out a future and not include God in it? Do I make plans that I think I can carry out?
I am sure that we know those people who show off a new car and then add “we prayed about it and then bought it.” Have you ever wondered if they would have bought it regardless of if they had prayed? I know I have. Still, there are those who have prayed without any idea how God would answer their prayer and found a good deal on a car. Here is a suggestion: Instead of going car shopping and finding one you like and then praying about it, try praying before you even get ready to go car shopping. Do this long before the desire and car fever hits you because I have been there. I have walked off a car lot before (I have no idea how I had the strength to do that)and it was a good 60 seconds before my pulse started to calm down. But it did, the urge passed and a when I did buy a car afterwards, it was a better deal.
Part of that prayer then would be for wisdom to choose the best car for you, your budget, your needs and perhaps to ask “Do I even need a new car?” Sure, mine doesn’t look that great but it still runs. Am I ashamed of it, does it affect my perceived status? Let me tell you, not having a car payment is a powerful reason to NOT go get another car. On the other hand, we all know that cars do break down and eventually will need to be replaced (but I dare say that it doesn’t have to be as soon as everyone else thinks) so planning for one would be wise, perhaps setting aside some monthly amount.
I can afford the car payments we boast. We lose our job the next week. Now where did that boasting get you?
If we boast in the Lord, we also boast in what he has given us. Contentment in what God as given is an antidote to boasting in ourselves. The poor man should boast in his exaltation, the rich man in his humiliation, nothing is said about his abilities, what is spoken of is that “all are equal”. All have a home in Heaven and if that is not worth boasting about, nothing is.