Life as a Vapor
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)
Closing out the chapter, verses 13 to 17 focus on seeking God’s will for your life. We have seen the dangers of self-centered living. With these next verses, James will show that self-centered living does not take into account God’s plans, who is truly in control of all things.
Starting with verse 13, James gives a hypothetical situation about a businessman during this time. Trading was the most stable method to make money. It did involve some risks, especially during travel between cities, but it was better than the unpredictable nature of farming, awaiting rain in a desert climate. So, these businessmen would make plans, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” They planned so much, even a year ahead, and yet, they did not take into account God’s will for their lives. Proverbs 27:1 warns against such foolish thinking, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Then, with verse 14, James lists the two assumptions about life that these individuals have failed to take into account. First, no one knows what will happen in the future, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be!” They could experience God’s blessings and a successful trip, or experience tragedy on the road. Anders writes, “Even though we do not know the future, we so often act as if we are secure. We forget that we may be here for a moment and then gone. By failing to accept this fact, we demonstrate arrogant self-sufficiency.”
The second assumption made about life is that these self-centered individuals do not fully understand the nature of life that is here for a brief amount of time, “For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.” We do not know the future and our lives are short. Yet, we tend to make plans and goals without taking into consideration what God wants for us to do for Him in the short time we have here on earth. Jesus Christ’ life on earth some would consider short, being less than 40 years on earth, and yet, He accomplished His Father’s will for His human life here on earth, providing everyone the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Him. May we follow Jesus’ example, following God’s will first and foremost, that however long (or short) our lives may be, that we glorify Him with the time that He has given us.
Isaac De Guzman