James M. S. Tait, Lerwick

Category: Exposition

How far are we justified in planning ahead ? Worrying about tomorrow is forbidden (Matt. 6. 34) ; so is boasting of tomorrow (James 4. 13) ; but the exercise of prudent forethought to meet contingencies which ordinary common sense can foresee—that kind of planning ahead is not only permissible but is a Christian duty, as will be seen from a consideration of three New Testament passages where " forethought " is mentioned, in relation to home life, assembly life and business life, respectively.
Home life. It is obvious that if a man has others dependent on him who are unable to earn their own living, these dependants may be exposed to distress unless he exercises forethought; and in 1 Tim. 5. 8, Paul warns that in such a case thoughtlessness is reprehensible, and all the more so if it masquerades as " faith." " Anyone who has no forethought for his own—and particularly for his own household" (so far from being a shining example of faith) " has negatived the faith ; he is behaving worse than if he had no faith at all."
Assembly life. Paul himself exercised forethought in connection with the administration of the bounty of the saints (2 Cor. 8. 21). "We have forethought to keep things right, not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of men." Thoughtless, slipshod handling of such matters is not to be excused by saying that God knows the integrity of our conduct; it is our duty so to act that men, too, can satisfy themselves that all is in order.
Business life. Similar language is used, but applying to another field, in Rom. 12. 17. Here, what is in view is the Christian's behaviour amongst men in the world ; he is to " have forethought to keep everything right in the sight of everybody." It would be far from commendable for a Christian so to neglect the responsibilities of life (even on the pretext of engaging in Christian work) that his affairs became embarrassed, and others suffered loss through his neglect.
There is, however, an evil kind of forethought. Exercise no forethought about the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 13. 14). Shameful indeed would it be for a Christian to spend time and thought planning and prearranging matters so as to fit this worldly amusement or that into a crowded life, or studying how circumstances may be so manipulated as to minister to self-gratification and obviate the reproach of Christ. To one thus engaged, planning ahead for ease and pleasure, God said " Thou fool " (Luke 12. 20).