People have different ideas about what we need to make sense of life. Some say we need happiness. Some say self expression. Some say personal relationships. Whatever people say, the common thread is that God is irrelevant. Is this deflationary secular answer enough? Even if people live according to these desires, many people have the sense that more is required to make life anything other than a brief cosmic bleep on the radar.
13 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." 14 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. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
This is a significant question that demands our attention. What is being condemned here is not business, but boasting. Not the industrious nature of the quest, but that the quest is being engaged in entirely independent of God. People operate on the basis they will 'for sure' be here tomorrow. They also believe that they will be successful on the basis of what they do. People view time as a wheel that continually turns. The bible says don't bother putting a mark on the wheel, as there is no wheel. Time is not ultimately cyclical, but it is linear. The line goes from eternity to eternity. Any attempt to view life in a cyclical manner is an attempt to escape from the truth that life for us will one day end. The moment we are born marks the inevitability of our death.
When we think in terms of the passage of time, we receive another day, not as a matter of necessity, nor by mechanical law, nor by right, nor by the courtesy of nature. We receive another day by the covenented mercies of God. It it because of his mercy that we are not consumed and wake to another day. Each day is a gift from a merciful God.
What is absent in the minds of secular man is any notion of the providence of God. The Scottish Catechism tells us the the works of God's providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and govorning all his creatures and their actions. This means that nothing in the Universe would continue to exist for the slightest fraction of a second without God. The creation does not exist without the continuous activity of the Creator.
James answers the question. Your life is very brief. It is a mist. Most people avoid this idea, but the bible continually confronts us with it. In Psalm 90 the psalmist tells us
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;10 The length of our days is seventy years—
we finish our years with a moan.
or eighty, if we have the strength;
Not a lot has changed since this was written. Most men today would consider living to eighty a long life. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." "He who dies with the most toys wins." We might as well grab what we can while we are going along.
James stands against the presumption that we even have one more day. Your life is a mist. It appears for a little while, then it vanishes away. You need to face up to your frailty. You need to face up to the fact that you are entirely dependent on God. Contemporary society resists this question. The current fascination with health is in response to the fact that they have no answer to death.
There are four things we can't avoid.
- Life's brevity
- Death's reality
- Judgment's certainty
- Faith's opportunity
My life is passing. My life is purchased. And my life is powerful. Impact of a solitary life lived for good and lived for God. This life soon will pass, and only what is done for Jesus will last.
These are my notes from a seven part podcast from Alistair Begg www.truthforlife.org