Summary: It is important to keep a proper perspective on life, and to remember that time is not in our hands.
“A Faith That Works: One Day at a Time”
Charles Schultz has Linus say, “I guess it’s wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today.” Charlie Brown responds, “No, that’s giving up. I’m still hoping that yesterday will get better.” As Bill Gaither put it, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”
Perhaps this is a rather morbid way to start a sermon. But then again, the reality is that time comes and goes. Things happen and don’t happen which we cannot control. While we seem to go merrily along in life, making all kinds of plans which we just naturally assume will come to be, there is no guarantee. James therefore reminds us to keep a proper perspective on life, to remember that time is not in our hands.
First of all, there is an UNDUE SECURITY. Vs. 13-14: “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.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” James is pointing to a dangerous ATTITUDE OF UNREALITY. In Greek the words in these verses are what we call emphatic. The people he is addressing honestly believe that whatever they plan will happen; there’s no question whatsoever. They never doubt it will not come to pass. They have a smug assurance that they are in control of life. It’s beyond positive thinking – it’s ABSOLUTE, BLIND ASSURANCE.
Picture it. There sit the merchants, looking at a map of the territory before them; they calculate where they’re going to be, and for how long, and what their profit will be. After all, they’re on the top of the business world; they have their act together. It won’t be long and their names will be in the Wall street Journal. They have no doubt.
But James points to AN ATTITUDE OF CLARITY. Vs. 16: “As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” He pops their balloon by stating that it’s all pride. To talk so blindly about the future is to imply we are masters of our own destiny. But WE CANNOT LIVE WELL WITHOUT AN AWARENESS OF GOD ALONE WHO CONTROLS TIME. James is saying, “Come one now. Be reasonable. Stop and think a moment – don’t kid yourselves. You really have no idea about tomorrow. There is no one so rich and powerful that he can promise himself tomorrow.”
James is merely building on what the Old Testament Scriptures teach. He knew the wise preacher was right. In Proverbs 27:1 he wrote: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” And in Ecclesiastes 6:12 he painted a picture: “For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow?” What security is there in a shadow? Can you hold it? Control it? Determine its size? Can you always count on it being there? So it is with life. Can you hold life in your hands? Control it? Determine its length? Can you always count on it turning out the way you want or plan? A shadow – and life – are too elusive and unpredictable. They are not secure.
Or consider Isaiah’s picture (38:12): “Like a weaver I have rolled up my life, and he has cut me off from the loom…” Who knows when the weaver will cut the threads? Since our lives are being woven by another, we do not determine when the threads of life will be cut. Life is not all that secure.
Isaiah points to still another picture (41:6-7): “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.” Grass and flowers bloom only for a season. When the Creator breathes on them, it is over. Life is not all that secure.
All of these pictures lift up an ATTITUDE OF REALITY. After all, we grow up looking to the future. We buoy ourselves with expectations for the future. Kids plan on being adults, adults plan on retirement, and we all look ahead to the great American dream of success. We’ve all said it – “Tomorrow!” Yet how many of us accurately predicted everything that has happened to us in the past year. One year ago – what were you planning and expecting? What were your expectations? Did you count on everything that happened to you? DID YOUR PROJECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS MEET THE REALITY OF YOUR LIFE?
Let us never forget the undue security of life and assume we have time on our hands. That’s nothing but pride. We cannot live well without an awareness of God alone who controls time. Indeed, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come…”