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 a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 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. James 4:13–16, ESV.
I depend greatly on the calendar that I keep on my computer and my phone. I spent some time looking at it yesterday. I deleted a lot of things. Then I thought of what this would have looked like on mom’s old kitchen old wall calendar. Instead of just a lot of empty space where events used to be, there would be a lot of scribbled out events—black marks covering up mom’s incredibly neat handwriting. That old wall calendar is probably a better reflection of how I feel about having to remove so many events for the sake of social distancing. Black marks over pretty letters.
But James tells us that we should expect the scratched out events. We are not God. We do not know what tomorrow holds. In fact, we do not even know if tomorrow holds life or death—we are like a mist. In James’s day, in arid Palestine, a mist was a common metaphor for something that was here for a moment and then gone. That is what the span of our life amounts to when considered in light of God’s eternity. Our calendars have very few pages in comparison to God’s calendar.
So, life is short. Is James trying to depress us? Not at all. James is offering us more of his characteristic wisdom. We do not know what tomorrow holds, so we need to plan with the sovereignty of our almighty God in mind. To cling to our tentative plans instead of God’s sure plan is arrogant sin. We must enter each day, even each moment, holding to our plans loosely and trusting that God has a plan for us that is solid as a rock.
James does not go into it here, but we must also keep in mind that God’s plan for His children is always good. Paul helps us here in Romans 8:31-39. He writes, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is God’s plan—a plan to show His love to His people.
When we add this message from James with what we observed in the previous chapters, we get a great game-plan for living each day: Ask God for the wisdom that shows itself in humility and brings righteousness and peace. Control your tongue. Make your plans, trusting that, as good as your plan seems to you, God has something even better in mind. And His plan is a sure expression of His love.
I pray that you will know the goodness and steadfastness of God today.