v. 13. Go to 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,
v. 14. whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.
v. 15. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that.
v. 16. But now ye rejoice in your boastings, All such rejoicing is evil.
v. 17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
In the preceding verses the apostle has rebuked the presumption of men both against the Lord and against the brethren. He here speaks of another form of arrogance, one which coolly disregards the Lord's providence and His rule over the world; Come now, you that say, Today or tomorrow we shall journey to this or that city; we shall spend a year there in doing business and making money,—you who do not know what tomorrow will bring. The impertinent independence which is shown in the attitude of many people is here skillfully and realistically brought out. Speeches similar to this may be heard any day in all cities of Christendom. The government and providence of the Lord is calmly disregarded. People make their plans for journeys, for the expansion of their business, for the accumulating of wealth without taking the Lord into account. And yet they do not know what the morrow will bring, or even whether they will live to see the morrow!
This the apostle brings out splendidly: For what is your life? For you are a vapor which is visible for a little while, and afterwards it passes away. Just as everything in this world is uncertain and unstable, so this truth holds with regard to the life of man. Who will say how long it is to last, with the evidence on every hand that it is the most uncertain quantity that we can think of? The life of man is truly like a vapor, like a puff of steam, like a wreath of mist floating in the air one moment, and gone the next, Job_14:1-2; Psa_90:5-6. How idle and foolish, therefore, to speak and act as though we were masters of our life and of our destiny, except as under God's guidance!
The proper attitude is that pictured by the apostle: Instead of your saying, If the Lord wills it and we live, and we shall do this or that, or, If the Lord wills it, we shall live. Our entire life with all its vicissitudes is in the hand of the Lord, under His government. Arrogant independence, therefore, has no room in the life of the Christian. All his plans are subject to approval or rejection by the Lord, under whose will the believer bows at all times. As our prayers with regard to earthly blessings are always conditioned upon His good pleasure, so all the various paths and byways of our life should be placed in His guiding hand, for He knoweth best.
Lest anyone take this admonition lightly, the apostle adds: But now you are boasting in your proud pretensions; all such boasting is evil. To maintain an attitude of proud indifference to the government of the Lord and to His control of the affairs of human life, is exhibiting a pride of mind which cannot be reconciled with true Christianity; it is an evil boasting in which many people are prone to indulge. Many a person that placed his will over against that of the Lord has found out to his sorrow that the Lord will not be mocked, not even in the so-called trifles of every-day life. And so the concluding warning comes with solemn emphasis: To him that knows to do the good and does not do it, to him it is sin. This principle is upheld also by Jesus, Luk_12:47-48. Some of the Christians may have erred with regard to the several points made by the apostle in this chapter through thoughtlessness. This fact would not have excused them, but it would have been a charitable explanation of their behavior. Now, however, that the facts of the will of God have been discussed at such length, even the last shred of an excuse is taken away. Anyone who disregards the points which are here set forth for the sanctification of believers has no one but himself to blame if the full measure of stripes is laid upon him by the judgment of the Lord. For it is not only sins of commission that are subject to condemnation, but also sins of omission, of not doing that which is right in the sight of God. This word should be heeded also in our days with the carefulness which it deserves.
The apostle cautions his readers against any display of lust, envy, and worldly-mindedness, demanding of them true humility, the absence of uncharitable judging, and trust in God's providence and government.