Douglas Moo On Misunderstanding James 4 in Planning and Profit

We are going through the book of James on Sunday mornings and this is a good place to share some extra meat and scraps from the table:

"However, we need to guard against a misinterpretation at this point. It would be terribly tempting (and some interpreters have succumbed to the temptation) to find here a rebuke of those who are out to make a profit at all. The economic system we call capitalism, in other words, might be the real target of James’s polemic. But, whatever we might think about the compatibility of Christianity and the profit motive of capitalism, it would be wrong to find any critique here. As the following verses make clear, James is not rebuking these merchants for their plans or even for their desire to make a profit. He rebukes them rather for the this-worldly self-confidence that they exhibit in pursuing these goals—a danger, it must be said, to which businesspeople are particularly susceptible. And we should guard here against another kind of misinterpretation: the idea that James is forbidding Christians from all forms of planning or of concern for the future. Taking out life insurance and saving for retirement, for instance, are not condemned by James; these may very well be a form of wise stewardship. What James rebukes here, as v. 16 will make clear, is any kind of planning for the future that stems from human arrogance in our ability to determine the course of future events."

Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.