“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9 NIV)
What’s wrong with taking a job that offers more pay and better opportunities? Isn’t upward mobility a good thing? After all, in our society we're expected to have career goals, to move ahead. It’s the American way, isn’t it?
Well, yes, there’s nothing inherently wrong with all this. But let’s be honest. You and I often leave out something very important in our plans. In fact, without that crucial element, decisions we make about our jobs can end up being destructive to our families, our spiritual lives, even our future.
Let's look at James 4:13-15 (NASB) to find out what that crucial element
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
Notice what the person’s business plan includes. He chooses his launch date. He selects his location. He sets how long he'll stay. He defines his market, and he projects his profits. All good things. So you say, what's the problem?
The plan excludes God.
When we make job decisions apart from God, we're saying we know more than God. We’re saying we think things like the economy, our health, the company's mission and so on are to stay the same. We’re saying we’re the exceptions – we’re not going to get sick or a family member isn’t going to have an emergency or there’s not going to be a natural disaster.
But James says we don’t know what life will be like tomorrow. He describes us like “a vapor” that will soon vanish.
Life is not predictable, and life is short! Thinking otherwise is to operate from false assumptions, and that leads to bad decisions.
It’s not uncommon for us to react to good opportunities that come our way with a response like, “Why pray about this? God is laying this in my lap.” Or “God wants me to be happy, right?” Sometimes we’re too quick to see dollar signs and say, “Let’s go!”
But that hedonistic attitude that will only lead to disappointment, or worse. Remember, Jesus said we can only serve Him, or mammon.
Instead, we need to acknowledge our dependence on God.
We should also be asking, “What would this job opportunity, money, etc. do to my spiritual life? What would this do to my spouse, my family, my marriage? What responsibilities do I have before God?”
It may well happen that you’ll get a green light to climb that ladder of success. Praise God! But it needs to be after you weigh answers to those questions, and pray hard and get good advice. Uprooting your family can have lifelong ramifications. Working a 60-hour week can damage your marriage, not to mention your health. Putting success ahead of service to the Body of Christ can decimate your spiritual life.
Life is unpredictable. Life is short. Let God determine your steps. “If the Lord wills, we will … do this or that.”
Don’t make plans without God!
For more information on this topic, take a look at Chip's series
Five Lies that Ruin Relationships,
How to Change for the Better, as well as
Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.