Like James’ original readers, most people live as though life will continue for ever. They plan with little thought of the possibility of their programmes being curtailed by death.
James warns his readers that they do not know ‘what tomorrow will bring’, accusing them of arrogant boasting when they talk of what they will do over the next year as though it will certainly take place. He likens life to the steam that appears when the kettle boils; in a few moments it is gone without trace. Taking that into account he challenges them to factor God into their plans.
Jesus told a parable (recorded in Luke 12) with a similar challenge. It featured a farmer who was blessed with a bumper harvest and planned a programme of barn-building to store his crops, anticipating that he could relax and enjoy himself for many years. What he didn’t know was that his life was to end that night, and he had left God completely out of his reckoning.
James wraps up his thoughts on this subject by talking about the sin of knowing the right thing to do and not doing it (verse 17). Jesus concluded his parable with the comment: ‘So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God’ (Luke 12:21).
Is it possible to avoid the sin to which James refers and ‘be rich toward God’ as Jesus put it? The Bible indicates that it is. It shows us that through constant breaking of God’s law we have accumulated a debt in His sight; therefore when we die (Romans 6:23) we shall come under His judgment (Hebrews 9:27). However, it also tells us that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, became a man and paid the debt on behalf of sinners when He died on a Roman cross (Romans 5:8). He rose again the third day so that those who confess their sin and yield their lives to Him may be sure of heaven, and can begin to lay up treasures there.
But remember, there is only ‘a little time’.