The Necessity of ‘God Willing’

Posted on May 31, 2021

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By David Ettinger

A Christian Necessity?
I recently bid a fellow worker good night before I left, and he replied, “I’ll see you tomorrow, God willing.”

He says this most of the time, but for some reason his farewell stuck with me as I drove home. I thought to myself, Is it really necessary for Christians to tack “God willing” on to every statement dealing with future plans?

This seeming obligation comes from James 4:13-16:

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. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

Does this passage require believers to add  “God willing” to every statement about the future?

Proper Perspective
This answer is simple if we understand the prospective from which James wrote. The author spent much of his epistle correcting wrong Christian thinking and behavior. This includes how we view trials and temptations (Chapter 1), showing favoritism (Chapter 2), how we view faith and works (Chapter 2), running off at the mouth (Chapter 3), and how we treat one another (Chapter 5).

In many ways, the Book of James is a primer on proper Christian behavior. After all, he is not chastising the correct actions and attitudes of believers, but improper ones. And we see this clearly in James 4:13-16.

In determining whether or not we should add a “God willing” to our comments regarding the future, we must look at the key phrase: “As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (v. 16).

There’s the key: Boasting. When James warns against proclaiming that we will do so such and such, he is speaking of those who live their lives based solely on their own wants and desires, giving no heed to God. This kind of boasting says, I’ve got this. I’m fully in charge of my life and am quite capable of taking care of myself.

It’s not necessarily the kind of boasting that says, I’m God’s gift to the world – as we commonly regard boasting – but the kind that wreaks of self-sufficiency.

Answering the Question
Another key to the James passage is verse 14: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

This is God’s way of saying that human beings are fragile creatures who could be alive and well one moment, but be struck dead the next. In other words, we are in control of nothing!

So, what’s the answer?

The answer is attitude. God wants us to recognize our vulnerability in the physical realm. He wants us to acknowledge that at any moment we can die. I also believe God wants us to acknowledge Him in every aspect of life (Proverbs 3:5-6), and dedicate ourselves fully to Him (Colossians 3:17). Our attitudes should always be, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Most Bible-believing Christians do live this way. We understand that when we say, “See you tomorrow,” we could well die in our sleep, or at least come down with some unexpected ailment. If we make travel plans to see a loved one in 2 months, it’s all right to say, “I can’t wait. I’ll see you then!”

It’s all right, that is, if we have the proper humble perspective – the “God willing” perspective which automatically includes this phrase in our minds whenever we state something regarding the future. Therefore, verbalizing “God willing” every time is unnecessary, but believing in it is crucial!

May all believers strive to live “God willing” lives, yielding to Him in all we do!