I mentioned recently that I am a part of a research group for an eBook that is being written on the “theology of planning.” I asked you to consider the same questions the author posed to us, and said that I would answer them here. Because of the length, I’m sharing my thoughts in three posts.
Introduction and Philosophy
By its very definition, theology must have God as its center; otherwise, it is something other than theology. “A theology of planning” then is really more accurately titled “A study of how God uses or discards human plans to accomplish his own sovereign plan.” But that’s a little long.
When most people think of “God’s plan”, they immediately head toward verses like Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
But is that God’s plan for everyone? Is that even God’s plan for every Christian? And should our planning be based on that?
With that in mind, here are my answers to the questions I was asked about planning. This is not an exhaustive study, so much more could be added. I encourage you to share your own thoughts in the comments.
Does God want us to plan for the future?
The Scriptures are full of people making plans, good and bad. It seems that only the plans of the wicked or faithless are condemned. I cannot find God condemning a righteous person’s plan, only sometimes changing or tweaking it for his own purpose.
Proverbs 13:22 seems to encourage financial planning – “A benevolent person leaves an inheritance for his grandchildren, but the wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous.”
In fact, there are many places in Proverbs that planning is spoken of in a good light:
“[The purpose of Proverbs] To impart shrewdness to the morally naive, and a discerning plan to the young person.” Proverbs 1:4
“The plans of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.” Proverbs 12:5
“Do not those who devise evil go astray? But those who plan good exhibit faithful covenant love.” Proverbs 14:22
“Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with abundant advisers they are established.” Proverbs 15:22
“The LORD abhors the plans of the wicked, but pleasant words are pure.” Proverbs 15:26
Here are a few other places where good planning is mentioned (at least not condemned) or encouraged:
“May he grant your heart’s desire; may he bring all your plans to pass! Then we will shout for joy over your victory; we will rejoice in the name of our God! May the LORD grant all your requests!” Psalm 20:4-5
“Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
“On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he extended his message until midnight.” Acts 20:7
And with this confidence I intended to come to you first so that you would get a second opportunity to see us, and through your help to go on into Macedonia and then from Macedonia to come back to you and be helped on our way into Judea by you. Therefore when I was planning to do this, I did not do so without thinking about what I was doing, did I? Or do I make my plans according to mere human standards so that I would be saying both “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 2 Corinthians 1:15-17
If so, what does a healthy plan look like?
A healthy plan is one that 1) does not contradict God’s revealed will as given in the Scriptures; 2) does not hurt a fellow Christian or cause them to falter in their faith; but instead 3) produces the maximum growth possible in fellow believers.
“The plans of the diligent lead only to plenty, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5
“So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” Romans 14:19
Even though this verse doesn’t have future planning as its primary meaning, the context of looking out for fellow believers is applicable to both short-term (i.e., which restaurant tonight?) and long-term (i.e., how can we help others grow?) planning.
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I often intended to come to you (and was prevented until now), so that I may have some fruit even among you, just as I already have among the rest of the Gentiles.” Romans 1:13
In Part 2, I will answer the questions:
Is planning the work of one person or many people?
Do plans change?
How do we distinguish a plan from God from a plan developed outside of God’s wisdom and inspiration?