13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Of course planning in life is not bad, but what I think what James is saying here, is don't let your planning get ahead of the Lord's planning. We often spend a lot of time planning and not as much time listening for God to show us what our plans should be. We worry about tomorrow, when as Jesus says, "Each day has enough worry in itself." What i believe James is getting at is that we develop our plans and then expect God to bless them.
James is saying that the church's plans were more about human boasting than obedience to God's will. Instead we might want to ask the question what is God calling me/us to do? Our assumption is that God has plans for us that involve advancing his kingdom, but those plans might be different from what we assume to be so. There is a real tension here. Most of us in full time ministry live in a world of budgets, sometimes building campaigns etc.. which need sound planning. There are other parables and teaching from Jesus that teach us to count the cost of a building before building it. Just as we count the cost of following him.
I think the most important point for us to consider today is how do our plans involve God's will being done? How do we spend time discerning God's will in prayer and meditation? Are we working our plan or God's? Is it bearing fruit that will last, or our goals measured in only the human realm?