Question: “What does the Bible say about setting goals?”
The Bible offers a balanced approach to setting goals that includes making plans yet doing so with wisdom and humility. Jesus’ illustration of building a tower implies that it is a good thing to have set goals (Luke 14:28).
To live with no motivation or planning is not God’s desire. Proverbs 6:6-11 says,
“Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.”
Laziness causes a person to neglect work and fail to exploit the window of opportunity. Summer is the preparation time for winter, and we dare not wile it away. Failure to plan ahead will result in “poverty” and “want.”
Wisely setting goals leads to better results: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit” (Proverbs 21:5).
However, just because we’ve done our planning doesn’t guarantee our goals will be met. The process of setting goals must be infused with humility. James teaches,
“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” (James 4:13-14).
The Bible teaches against two extremes: never setting goals and setting goals with no thought of God. The balanced alternative is found in James 4:15: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” It is good to make plans, as long as we leave room for God to change our plans. His goals take precedence over ours.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” In other words, we have our ideas and make our plans, but God will ultimately accomplish His sovereign desires. Do our goals make room for the unexpected? Do we love God’s will more than our own?
Finally, we can take comfort in the words of Jesus: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:33-34). Our goal-setting need not be accompanied by fear. If our plans focus on Christ and honor Him, He will see to it that the best results—the eternal results—are ours.