What Does James 4:14 Mean?

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

James 4:14(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

There are two groups of people living in this world today - those that are saved and those that are lost; those that are for Christ and those that are against Him. There are two creations living side by side - those with their feet firmly fixed in the old creation in Adam - who are part of the kingdom of darkness, and those with their hearts resting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus - who are part of the kingdom of light and have been born again into the New Creation in Christ. There are two worldviews; two mindsets; two domains; two frames of reference into which every member of the human race falls.

James, however, reminds us that those that are saved, by grace through faith in Christ, also fall into two, distinct groups - those that are spiritual and those that are fleshly; those that are walking in spirit and truth and those that are living a carnal life with a worldly perspective and arrogant attitude. His epistle is clearly written to Christians, but it also identifies and condemns believers who have chosen to leave their first love and make friends with the world by adopting an ungodly philosophy of life and allowing the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life to engulf their thinking and to shipwreck their Christian witness.

In chapter 4 we find James warning that the pursuit of pleasure and the product of presumptuous plans too often results in a compromised faith and lack of dependence on the Lord, Who is the Giver of life and through Whom all good gifts come. James points out that if a believer strays from the path of truth or 'falls from grace' - as Paul describes it, he becomes a friend of the world.

Sadly, a Christian who becomes entrenched in worldly philosophies and the pursuit of pleasure renders such believers as hostile toward God. "Come now," James warns his readers, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit, and concludes in verse 14 by saying,' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

While James is not decrying prudent planning or prayerful preparations for our future, he is most certainly warning that making presumptuous plans that ignore God's guidance, deny His gracious providence and stray outside of His will for our lives is very foolish and is most likely to end in calamity. We are not self-governing, autonomous creatures. We are bound by natural law that were set in motion by God Himself, so none of us know what tomorrow may bring.

God is outside of time and space while we are bound by His universal laws. God knows the end from the beginning but in His grace, He does not reveal our individual futures - for we would not be able to bear the responsibility of knowing all that lies ahead. In His grace He allows the problems and disappointments of the future to unfold one-by one - day-by-day. And knowing that our brief lifespan is like a vapour that appears for a while and then vanishes away, He forwards His eternal plans and purposes, including us in His purposes for a brief time before we pass away.

As His children we should be very careful to live according to His will on a daily basis and be sure to include Him in our preparations and planning rather than blithely making arrogant decisions and prideful pronouncements that exclude the Lord from the equation.

Knowing the brevity of our live in this earthly sphere, may we be keen to go about our daily duties keeping God in the centre and Jesus as our focal point. May we remember that none of us stands still in our Christian walk - we either grow in the grace of God and mature in the faith as we submit to God, humble ourselves before Him, seek His face and are led by the Spirit of truth or we can regress into spiritual infancy through our arrogant behaviour and puffed up boastings. 

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, it is easy to get caught up in the joys and cares of this life. Help me remember how fragile my life is and how short my time on earth is, in relation to eternity. Help me to live my life with an eternal perspective, knowing that You have my life in Your hands, and You do know what tomorrow will bring. May I take to heart the words of this precious old poem: “Only one life ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Choose a Verse from James 4