"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." (James 4:13-16)At times I naively believe that it should be straight forward to translate from Greek to English, yet, when I look closer at the Greek, I understand that it is not so. The New King James version translates then ending of verse 14 as, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14 NKJV) Here is the question, What is your life? When we misjudge this question or equivocate at its answer, then we often run our lives towards vanity and miss the mark God has set for our lives. We can make our plans, but we must make them with full knowledge of who we are and what our life here on Earth really represents, especially when compared with eternity.
The truth is that our lives are fleeting. They may seem unending and, especially in our youth, we may seem invincible, but time is relentless and will quickly consumes our life. We are on this earth for such a short time. David says, "Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them." (Psalm 39:4-6)
Most of us live life as if it will never end, but it will. We squander time and opportunities, not realizing that many of them will never return and we often don't get a second chance at opportunities that come our way, We must learn to live life on purpose, to recognize the opportunities and to take full advantage of them. Paul counsels us to "See therefore how ye walk carefully, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 Darby) Life is too short to be lived aimless, but in purposing our lives we must remember the Lord and purpose within His will. To live our lives outside His will is to completely waist our lives. We must always remember what He says, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Our plans must always include the Lord.
Our lives are not only brief, but they are also unpredictable. It is man's nature to spend today what should be saved for the uncertainties of tomorrow. None of us know what will happen tomorrow and whether tomorrow will be kind or grievous. Some men hoard what should be given and others spend what should be saved, but both sin by supposing tomorrow to be just as they imagined it.
Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer who built bigger and bigger barns for his record crop that he might achieve financial security for himself. However, "God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21) Jesus also tells the story of ten virgins, five of which spent what they had and didn't make provisions for the future. However, after the bridegroom had delayed in coming, "Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'" (Matthew 25:7-8) One man horded what he never got to enjoy and another enjoyed what he latter wish he had left to use, and both presumed upon the future. We must make our plans and we must prepare for the future, but we must always remember that our future is only secure if we learn to be rich towards God first. Let us learn to give first place to what really matters and to those things that retain eternal value.