“Boast not of tomorrow, for you know not what any day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).
In his homily for today, June 25th, from The Prologue, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich issues a poignant warning (it can be found here). It is “vain fantasizing,” he says to make plans based on the certainty that we will be alive to accomplish those plans. We do not, I believe St. Nikolai is saying, have the prerogative to live as if we have tomorrow or next month or any day beyond today for that matter. Therefore, it is deeply presumptuous to “boast” about what we will do in the future.
The sin of boasting in this sense is twofold.
First, it is presumptuous to make plans regarding the future based on the ILLUSIONARY CERTAINTY that tomorrow will even occur. When we plan in this way, we are taking the place of God. We are creating a day that does not exist and making plans about it based on that creation. That is sheer fantasy and foolishness in the extreme! We do not have the power to declare that tomorrow will come.
Second, it is presumptuous to make proclamations about what WE WILL DO in that day. Such declarations presuppose a strength and certainty about what will be required of us we do not possess.
Almost every time I visited the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai I have heard the monks speaking about the future and their plans with the disclaimer, “If God wills.”
Our first reaction, perhaps, to such a statement is to strike out with a statement such as, “Well of course we need to make plans for the future. It is the responsible thing to do. Certainly you do not mean we should be irresponsible!” I have made such statements on a number of occasions. As a matter of fact, too many occasions.
I say “too many” because on every one of those occasions I was doing the very thing about which St. Nikolai is warning us. I was speaking out of a spirit of presumption and boasting. I was, as Metropolitan Jonah and Abbot Meletios say, “in my head” and not “in my heart” or “in my right mind” (an spirit inspired intellect). It was my passions speaking.
There is a faithful way to plan. It is from within the context of “according to God’s will” or “if the Lord wills.”
This way of planning is filled with faith, love, humility, etc. In essence, the fruit of the Spirit. It is planning from the heart enlisting the intellect in as much as it is able.
You might be protesting in your “head” that this is not very “practical” or “reasonable.” Well, that IS THE POINT, isn’t it?! We need to be vigilant in our care about making proclamations about what we will do and what we will accomplish. Why?
People make plans and begin to hang their future on our proclamations. They depend on us to follow through and deliver on our statements and commitments. If those issue from our passions instead of our hearts and inspired intellect in community, we are doing those people a disservice to say the least.
Let us endeavor to plan from within the context of the fruit of the Spirit as much as possible.