"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go 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."
This passage introduces us to the idea that very few things in life are certain. In fact, the idea here presented is that not even life is a sure thing. We all know the old adage that "death and taxes" are sure; and the addition to it that at least death doesn't get worse every time congress meets. But, after all this, we still go on feeling that not much is going to change.
The last few weeks have shown us just how much change can take place in a short time. Never has the world in our time seen such dramatic changes in such short periods of time as have taken place in the Soviet Union which is really not much of a union any longer. These events can be a lesson to all of us. It brings our minds back to the uncertainty of life and position.
In our own state two of our largest banks decided to merge. This is going to create a super-bank. One can read in the newspapers all of the marvelous things this will do for people who are customers of the banks. But, not as well known are the things that are going to be done to the employees. Thousands of people who thought they had secure jobs are finding out that they do not. People will be let go by the thousands and many branches of the two banks will be closing.
There can be just a spit second between life and death. Each day thousands of people start out in their automobiles for a destination they never reach. A split second accident has changed the course of many lives.
Today we have good health; tomorrow we become ill. Today we have money in the bank, tomorrow we are wiped out. Today we have a good job, tomorrow we are laid off. Today we have a savings account, tomorrow it is used up for medical expenses from an illness we did not expect. And on and on we could go.
All of us know about these things, but when things seem to be going well for us we forget them. We know that James tells us about what can happen but we don't read him often and our memory conveniently places these items in limbo. We forget just how vulnerable each of us is on the road of life.
There is still another way to look at this. James says in this same passage, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (vs 17). There may be a relationship between this verse and the ones quoted at the beginning of this article. Since life is very unpredictable, we should be doing what we know to be good now. Many of these items may be very minor and yet important. Maybe, it's a letter we intended to write, a word of confidence we intended to speak, a friend we intended to contact, an enemy we intended to apologize to, a debt we intended to repay, a mother, father, wife, husband, child or friend we intended to tell that we loved them. Maybe it was a gift we were going to give, a visit we were going to make, a room we were going to clean, time we were going to spend with loved ones, brethren we were going to visit, or whatever. You supply the other items. The point is, the uncertain hand of illness or death can change all of our plans and the things we were going to do never get done.
I can identify with this. Procrastination is well known to me. And it is not my own death that might keep me from doing the things I would do it is the death of others. Too many times it is too late to do that kind deed or write that letter or tell that person how much we thought of them - death has taken them. And flowers at the funeral will not suffice other than to assuage our conscience somewhat.
The only certainty there is in life is found in Jesus. Our Lord tells us not to store up things here on the earth things that can be stolen, things which rot away, things which can be corrupted, things in which we can place our confidence, which will not last. Our treasure should be in heavenly things which will last forever. The really certain things of life are those pertaining to the Lord. When we try to make life here on earth more sure and certain we end up serving the wrong master. This is undoubtedly one of the great problems of life.
Only God changes not. We can be sure He will be there to usher us into a better place when life here is over. As we have so aptly seen in the last few weeks, things of the earth are very changeable. But, our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Of that, we can be certain.