What Does the Bible Say About Setting Goals and Planning for the Future?

Many of you know I’m a big fan of goal-setting. I maintain a GTD task-flow on my computer and I’m constantly looking for ways to get more done. You could say I’m a productivity nut. I’m not always the best at achieving goals, but if I fail at enough of them usually I succeed at one or two. 😉 Well, that got me thinking: What does the Bible say about setting goals? Furthermore, what does the Bible say about planning for the future? Is all this goal-setting bad for my soul?

What Does the Bible Say About Goals and Planning?

I’ve always believed that proper personal finance management is focused on planning for the future and saving money for tomorrow. Is this in conflict with the Scriptures? Let’s take a look at a few Bible verses . . . .

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. – Proverbs 27:1 NIV

This makes it clear that we aren’t to boastfully tell others about our plans. We’re to be humble! All of us know from experience that one little change in our day can change so much more in that day and beyond. We really don’t know what a day may bring!

The Bible goes on to explain that we are but a mist, here for just a while until we pass into the next life:

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.” 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. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15 NIV

This mirrors a lot of what was said in Proverbs. But notice something new here? We should recognize that it’s okay to state our plans while conveying that the Lord is ultimately in control.

Turning back to Proverbs, we find the author’s instruction for the lazy person (sluggard) to consider how the ants conduct themselves:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV

This reminds me of building an emergency fund. The ant stores up food in a season of plenty and is able to consume even when there is famine. Sound like another story in the Bible? How about the story of Joseph? Through the revelation of God he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams that there would be a time of plenty and a time of famine (Genesis 41).

The Bottom Line on Goals

To sum everything up, I think the Bible is telling us a few things:

  • We shouldn’t feel 100% confident that we can get the things done that we plan.
  • Because we don’t know the circumstances we’ll encounter when we start a new task or project, we should be careful telling others what we’re going to accomplish. As the adage goes, “Under promise and over deliver.”
  • We should do all things in humility.
  • It’s okay to plan . . . in fact it is encouraged! It’s just important to keep in mind that plans sometimes fall apart.

I don’t know about you, but reading through these Bible verses taught me that I should be a little more flexible when it comes to planning for the future and setting goals. If I fail, I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. I should just press on and get things done–without boasting to others about everything I’m going to do in the future.

Are you a planner? Do you struggle with some of these issues? Please tell me I’m not alone in the comments below!

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