When a Man Forgets God
Now listen, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
* * * * * * *
"What is your life," writes the apostle James. "It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (Ja 4:14). Yes, life is brief. It is here for a moment and then gone." "Life is so short," someone has said, "that the wood of the cradle rubs up tightly against the marble of the tomb."
Here in chapter 4, James presents a picture of those who lived as if tomorrow would never come. These first century merchants were obsessed with materialism. Buying, selling, and making a profit were their major interests. The accumulation of this world's wealth was their only concern. They had completely forgotten about God and His claim upon their lives.
DON'T FORGET GOD
Many people today, even as in the first century, have forgotten about God. They have decided that religion and business do not mix. Their entire lives are motivated by greed and the desire to make money.
Several years ago the world was shocked to hear of the multimillion dollar business swindle engineered by the likable, church-going Texan, Billie Sol Estes. Typical of thousands
of other people in our world today, Estes saw nothing wrong in taking people for whatever he could get out of them.
It seems that ethics in business has gone out of style! Recent statistics show that stealing on the job by employees has skyrocketed! Losses at construction sites alone top 500 million dollars each year. "We simply have to consider theft as a part of the cost of doing business," said one contractor recently. Much of labor and management have accepted the idea that the right to steal is one of the employees' fringe benefits.
A recent article in Time magazine illustrates the fact that many of our leading manufacturers today are interested in only one thingthat is making money. Quality of materials, safety regulations, and other important considerations take a back seat to the almighty margin of profit. Yes, leaving God out of business has become the normal thing to do. It is no longer the exception to the rule.
In his letter to Christians, the apostle James states that true religion and one's business must mix. One's life and faith must be in total harmony.
DON'T BE PRESUMPTUOUS
In this passage, James tells us what happens when a man forgets God. "[Come] now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain" (Ja 4:13). Here James is condemning an attitude of presumption! Wait just a minute, exclaims the apostle, and think about what you are actually doing. He is speaking out against the presumptuous man whose only consideration is making a fast buck and moving on. This, says James, is in contradiction to true Christianity.
A customer once suggested a dishonest transaction to a store clerk saying, "It will be all right, your boss is out." The
clerk, who was a committed Christian, rejected the customer's offer by saying, "My real boss is never out!" A true Christian should be no more inclined to leave God out of his business affairs than he would be to leave God out of any other area of his life.
The Bible tells us about a young man who demonstrated his convictions even in his business affairs. In the book of Genesis we read that, "the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man." But more than that, we are told that "his master saw that the LORD was with him" (Gen 39:2-3). Joseph's life was above reproach. But more important, it demonstrated positive evidence of God's presence with him.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was especially loved by his father, Jacob. And because of his preferred position he was greatly envied by his brothers. As a result of this hatred, Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and taken to Egypt. It was there, in Egypt, that Joseph found himself a prosperous employee in the house of Potiphar.
While working for Potiphar, Joseph demonstrated two great characteristics. First, he did his work well. Genesis 39:4 reads, "Joseph found grace in [Potiphar's] sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand." Joseph's work was characterized by excellence, and he was rewarded for it. What an example to follow! The Christian should seek to excel! We should always strive to do our very best in business or in any other area of life.
Second, we read that Joseph was true to God in the hour of temptation. In Genesis 39:7-9 we read that "And it came to pass after these things that his masters wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused and said to his masters wife, 'Look, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. There is no one greater in this house than I,
nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' "
Joseph was true to God even in the hour of temptation. Oh yes, he suffered for it. He was unjustly accused and even thrown into prison. But in the end he was elevated to an even greater position of authority. God was with him. He delivered him and honored his faithfulness.
My friend, you never do right by doing wrong. James and Joseph both tell us, "Do not leave God out of your life's work." Make Jesus Christ the center of your vocation.
As we examine this portion of James' epistle, we see several excellent principles set forth by the apostle. First of all, James is saying, "Do not be presumptuous with God. Do not leave God out of your plans for tomorrow; do not forget about God! Why? Simply because you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
DON'T COUNT ON TOMORROW
In verse 14 we read that "ye know not what shall be on the morrow." Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is uncertain. Therefore, live for Jesus Christ today!
In the book of Ruth, Naomi asked of her daughter-in-law, "Where hast thou gleaned today?" (Ruth 2:19). What about you? What have you accomplished for Jesus Christ today? Jesus' words to Zaccheus were, "Today I must abide at thy house" (Lk 19:5). Now is the accepted time. Live for Christ today! We know not what a day may bring forth. Yield your entire life this day to the Lord.
Jesus once told a parable of a rich man who thought only of himself. One year he had such a bountiful harvest that he had no place to store all his crops. Jesus said that this man "thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This
will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." What arrogance! What presumption!
But God said unto him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Lk 12:17-20). In a moment he was stripped of everything. He was totally dispossessed!
My friend, do not count on tomorrow, for you know not what tomorrow may bring.
Many people today, like this rich fool, are only concerned about material things. We find that in the United States, per capita income has increased 89 percent in the last ten years. Even after inflation is considered, we are taking home 42 percent more in wages than we did a decade ago. One in three American families now owns a second car, nearly half own at least one color television set, one-third of all our households own freezers, 20 percent now have automatic dishwashers. More and more families are purchasing second homes in the countryaffluence abounds! "Eat, drink, and be merry," has become a national motto.
Oh, the dangers, my friend, when men forget God. James reminds us that life is short, "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (Ja 4:14). The word vapor used here is the same word that is often used for smokethat which is here one moment and gone the next.
In his play, MacBeth, Shakespeare pictures the brevity of life:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Edward Young pictured life as nothing but "bubbles on the rapid stream of time."
It is true that man's life expectancy has risen dramatically during this century. In parts of the world an average lifespan now exceeds seventy years. But in reality whether a man lives to be thirty, fifty, or even one hundred years, his time is still but a wisp of vapor that appears for a moment and then vanishes. I never cease to be amazed at the numbers of people who spend an entire lifetime attempting to accumulate enough wealth so that they will be able to one day retire and live a life of ease. Oftentimes they literally kill themselves amassing earthly wealth that they never get a chance to enjoy. And the treasures that they should have been concerned aboutheavenly treasuresthey completely ignore. Jesus said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through nor steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:19-21).
What is your life? Have you tasted of the real, meaningful life that Jesus came to bring? Or is your existence full of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10). He wants to give you fullness. A realization of the brevity of life should lead you to a full-hearted trust in Jesus Christ. Real lifeeternal lifebegins when you receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
James, of course, is not suggesting that our physical life is unimportant, nor is he writing against a well-planned life. But he is warning us about a presumptuous spirit and the brevity of life.
Finally, James teaches that everything should be subject to the will of God. In verse 15 James says, "You ought to say,
If it is the Lord's will, we shall live, and do this, or that." A man who is living in the will of God is a man who is ready for anything.
Someone once asked the great evangelist, George Whitefield, what he would do if he knew Jesus Christ would return in just three days. Whitefield produced his date book and said, "I would do just what I have scheduled to do." He was confidently living in God's will.
Notice our duty that James speaks of in verse 15. "You ought to say, if the Lord wills." Ought signifies duty. All of our living should be in the light of God's will.
These businessmen of whom James is writing were not only being presumptuous with God, they were literally taking their lives into their own hands. They were assuming that they were in full control of their own destinies. They had their entire future mapped out. They were in the driver's seat, handling the controls. Seemingly, they had no idea that God might have other plans for them.
In many respects, this kind of attitude places a man in total rebellion against God. For in the very act of ordering his own future, he refuses to acknowledge God's power and right to interpose His will in us. James declares that it is much better to say, "If God wills, I will do thus and so."
A. B. Simpson once said, "I like to interpose in all of my appointments, if the Lord wills." James here is speaking about attitude. "If God wills," is not just a trite phrase or a neat formula. No, it is an indication of an attitude of complete submission to God. Our heavenly Father should be our partner in all our plans.
The great preacher, Dr. George Truett, used to say: "To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement!"
My friend, do not leave God out of your plans. Do not try to run your own life according to your own blueprint. Jesus
declared, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Lk 12:31). Accept His kingship and domain, and everything else will fall into place.
Many people are never willing to acknowledge Christ in their lives until they come to a period of suffering. Surely all of our hard times and trouble are not a result of sin. But God does deal firmly with us at times so that we might become pliable and willing to seek His perfect will.
I recall a young attractive couple who were alert and capable, but who resolutely refused to yield to the will of God. They completely neglected God as they lived totally unto themselves. Before long God permitted difficulties to enter their lives. One of their sons became ill and had to be hospitalized. A short time later the wife suffered a nervous breakdown. And minor things happenedthe washing machine broke down, the furnace stopped working. Their problems steadily multiplied.
This was obviously beyond the natural. The hand of God was working in their home, seeking to bring them to submission. Soon they yielded their lives totally to Jesus Christ. They sought His will, and let Him take control.
That is the solution! Do not try to go it alone.
The Bible says, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Pro 3:5-6). My friend, have you acknowledged Jesus Christ as Saviour? As Lord?
James warns us: Do not forget God! Do not be presumptuous! Do not count on tomorrow! Do not leave Jesus Christ out of your life, and do not delay.
James concludes this chapter by saying, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (Ja 4:17). Knowledge brings responsibility.
* "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (Ja 4:15).
* Do not forget God! Do not be presumptuous! Do not count on tomorrow. Do not leave Jesus Christ out of your life, and do not delay!
* My real boss is never out.
* "I like to interpose in all of my appointments, if the Lord wills." A. B. SIMPSON
* "To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement." GEORGE TRUETT
Chapter Twelve || Table of Contents