13Come 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”— 14yet 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. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16As 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. – James 4:13-17
OK, all of you procrastinators, this message is for you(me). I am sure you have heard people quote verse 17 from time to time. It is often used to show that you must do every good thing that you know to do. As good as that application sounds, it kind of misses what James is talking about in the context of this verse. James is talking about people who make grand plans for everything they are going to do in the future without taking into account the fact that they may not be there to carry them out when the time comes.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t plan ahead. On the contrary, sometimes we have to plan ahead to get things accomplished at all. What James is saying however, is that we should not put off to tomorrow those things that we can do today. If we put them off for “another day” when we should be doing them now, it is like assuming that we have all the time in the world, so to speak. In a sense, James had Nike’s slogan before they ever did, “just do it.”