James 4:15

15 Instead you ought to say, 1"If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."

James 4:15 Meaning and Commentary

James 4:15

For that ye ought to say
Instead of saying we will go to such and such a place, and do this, and that, and the other thing, it should be said,

if the Lord will, and we shall live, and do this and that;
the last "and" is left out in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions; and the passage rendered thus, "if the Lord will, and we shall live, we will do this": so that here are two conditions of doing anything; the one is, if it should be agreeable to the determining will and purpose of God, by which everything in the world comes to pass, and into which the wills of men should be resolved, and resigned; and the other is, if we should live, since life is so very uncertain and precarious: and the sense is, not that this exact form of words should be always used, but what is equivalent to them, or, at least, that there should be always a sense of these things upon the mind; and there should be a view to them in all resolutions, designs, and engagements: and since the words are so short and comprehensive, it might be proper for Christians to use themselves to such a way of speaking; upon all occasions; we find it used by the Apostle Paul frequently, as in ( Acts 18:2 ) ( 1 Corinthians 4:19 ) ( Romans 1:10 ) ( Hebrews 6:3 ) , and even by Jews, Heathens, and Turks. It is a saying of Ben Syra, the Jew F16,

``let a man never say he will do anything, before he says (Mvh rzwg Ma) , "if God will"''

So Cyrus, king of Persia, when, under pretence of hunting, he designed an expedition into Armenia, upon which an hare started, and was caught by an eagle, said to his friends, this will be a good or prosperous hunting to us, (hn yeov yelh) , "if God will" F17. And very remarkable are the words of Socrates to Alcibiades, inquiring of him how he ought to speak; says Socrates, (eav yeov eyelh) , "if God will" {r}; and says he, in another place F19,

``but I will do this, and come unto thee tomorrow, "if God will".''

And it is reported of the Turks F20, that they submit everything to the divine will; as the success of war, or a journey, or anything, even of the least moment, they desire to be done; and never promise themselves, or others, anything, but under this condition, "In Shallah", if God will.


F16 Sentent. 11.
F17 Xenophon. Cyropaed. l. 2. c. 25.
F18 Plato in Aleibiade, p. 135.
F19 Plato in Laches.
F20 Smith de Moribus Turc. p. 74.

James 4:15 In-Context

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.

Cross References 1

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.