The book of James has been called the gospel of practicality because it contains so many truths of everyday value. One of the dangers of which James warns is the pursuit of material interests to the exclusion of the Lord’s will (cf. Jas. 4:13-17).
Within that discussion, the inspired writer asks, “What is your life?” In the immediate context, James addresses the matter in terms of life’s brevity. Human life is like a vapor that appears momentarily and then is gone.
Other biblical writers have employed similar figures to emphasize how very fleeting our earthly existence is. Our lives are:
- but a shadow (1 Chron. 29:15),
- swifter than a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6),
- faster than a runner and quicker than an eagle diving after prey (Job 9:25-26),
- of few days (Job 14:1), and
- as a handbreadth (Psa. 39:5).
But there are additional ways in which this question — “What is your life?” — can be answered.
On his second missionary campaign, Paul came to the city of Athens (Acts 17:16ff). When he beheld the metropolis brimming with idols, he addressed the Grecians regarding the true God. He argued that the Deity is both Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
With reference to this latter point, the apostle affirms that God “gives to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). It is clear that Scripture regards life as a gift from Heaven.
There are several implications in this statement.
Origin of Life
Life is not a mere biological accident, as alleged by materialists. Its source is God.
For decades, scientists have been attempting to create life in the laboratory and the results have been nil.
Some years ago, Professor George Wald of Harvard wrote an article on the origin of life in which he conceded that spontaneous generation (the accidental origin of life) is impossible. He went on to affirm, however: “Yet here we are — as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”
Why did this prominent scientist adopt a position that he conceded was an irrational view?
Because, as he honestly admitted, if the theory of spontaneous generation is not accepted, the only remaining alternative is special creation. And this, he said, we are just “unwilling to accept” (1954, 46).
George G. Simpson of Harvard acknowledged that the question of the origin of life is “among the greatest of all evolutionary problems” (1954, 14).
And so the complexity of life is an evidential tool that argues for the existence of a living Creator.
Sanctity of Life
If human life is a gift from God, then it is a sacred essence, and no man has the arbitrary right to take it from another or to destroy it within himself.
Murder has been wrong since the beginning of time. Moses recorded:
Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man (Gen. 9:6).
Today life is treated as a cheap commodity.
Murderers multiply while the justice system ignores this chaos. The destruction of innocent human life by means of abortion is a national disgrace, while politicians treat the issue as an oratorical exercise.
Suicide has reached epidemic proportions because folks entertain the notion that “my life is my own, to do with as I please.”
Human life is to be revered and treated as a sacred possession on loan from the Creator.
Life and Stewardship
As indicated above, many labor under the illusion that life is a personal possession that we may do with as we wish.
Clearly, that is not the case. Jehovah declared that, ultimately, all souls belong to him (Ezek. 18:4). The Lord has the sovereign right to dictate how human lives should be regulated.
The Bible indicates that we were created for the purpose of glorifying our Maker (Isa. 43:7). The whole purpose of man’s existence is to reverence God and obey his commandments (Eccl. 12:13).
We ought to want to honor our Creator and lovingly serve him.
Anyone who does not acknowledge this truth lives as a rebel and defies the very reason for his existence. How tragic it is, though, that many use their lives in a vain, egotistical fashion.
Far too many entertain the views of the infidel poet William E. Henley, as expressed in his haughty composition “Invictus”:
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Life and Preparation for Eternity
A wise person once said: “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14). Life is a period of preparation for eternity.
Abraham recognized that life is but a sojourn that eventually leads to the eternal beyond, and so he cast his eyes toward the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:9-10). We would be wise ourselves to “walk in the steps of that faith” which characterized Abraham (cf. Rom. 4:12).
In the Lord’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the key element that separated the two groups was that of preparation. Those prepared were received into the wedding feast. Those unprepared were not (Mt. 25:1-13).
There is no second-chance reincarnation whereby we’ll get to return to this planet to “get it right.” There is no purgatory in which we’ll expiate our sins after this precious earthly life ends. There is no baptism-for-the-dead by which the reward of obedience can be transferred.
Now — in this life — is the time for preparation.
What is your life?