After commanding us not to judge our neighbor, James moves on quickly to boasting about tomorrow:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jam 4:13-14).
If ever there was a timely Scripture for the current day, this must be close to top of the list. And it is amplified by up-to-the-minute news reporting around the world. Yesterday was a day of horror in Afghanistan that showed us more dramatically than usual how quickly life can change.
These current events, shocking us into reality, make us ripe for what James has to say:
“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jam 4:15-16).
This made me think of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Act 5, Scene 5 (modern English):
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day. To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools, The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more: it is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
Is James as much of a pessimist as Macbeth? No, he is trying to teach a better way. Life is hard and fleeting for all humanity thanks to Adam and Eve. But that is not where it stops:
We have Jesus and an astonishing, beautiful future as long as we depend on Him and not on our own planning and boasting!
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (Jam 4:17).
So what is the right thing?
- Always listen for and seek the Lord’s will;
- Live joyously and generously;
- Obey the Lord’s will in his Word and through the breathing of the Holy Spirit.
It’s okay to have dreams and to make plans, as long as we acknowledge in perfect unity with God that He, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, guides our lives, and that any boasting we do about the future is foolish.
There is great happiness in perfect unity with Christ, even in the worst of times. It is Satan who wants to blow out your candle of life. But as the light of our lives, Jesus cannot be extinguished.