WHAT IS YOUR LIFE? James 4:13-17

Life is short and frail, therefore our sovereign God calls us to live daily with an eternal perspective of humble dependence on Him.

James continues his hard hitting teaching about what it means to be hammered into the mould of Christ by challenges us – What is life?

What is your attitude to life? Are you a worrier, a planner, a she’ll be right kind of person?

James once again speaks plainly about the tendency we have as Christians to develop an arrogant pride and self-sufficiency when it comes to life, in particular material wealth. He challenges their/our heart attitude to today regarding the question – What is life?


He does this by firstly reminding us that life is short.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

James uses the nature of mist/vapour to explain the frailty, shortness and certainty of death that we face in life. Just like steam from a boiling jug.

Let’s look at the frailty of it. I can move my hand through it and it part, breaks, disrupts it. There are some many things that are unknown in life that we have no control over and no guarantees about that can disrupt our lives.

Let’s look at the shortness of it. A mist is short-lived. You see the steam at one moment and a few minutes later it’s gone. You see the steam coming out of the jug and in just a few seconds, it disappears into the air. Life is like that. It is short. The Psalmist puts it this way… Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10 Or in Katie’s case, they only came to 26 years.

Let’s look at the inevitability of it. The mist, the steam ends. And so to in life. It is 100% inevitable that we will physically die.

So what is your life?

I’m not trying to be morbid here, but James is wanting us, as believers, to consider the reality of life. It is frail and short and inevitably will end in death.

Life is short and frail

Worldly wisdom says in response to this…

“Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” James 4:13

There is a lot of mention of what we will do. We plan and prepare, we make ourselves comfortable. An arrogant self-sufficiency as if we have control over the course of our frail, short lives.

What does that look like for you?

Now let’s understand what James is saying. He’s not against planning. He is showing us what is at the heart of much of our planning…

“As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:16

They were arrogantly making plans for their future financial security, but their plans did not include God. Their trust was not in God, but in their business ventures and in all of the money that they supposed they would make. They were assuming that they were in control of their future and that everything would go according to their plans. Pride!

James highlights to us the Biblical principle of the “sin of omission”.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

We are often very aware of the “sin of commission” – doing those things that we shouldn’t.

  • Stealing.

  • Swearing

  • Dishonesty etc...

James here is also reminding us that there is a “sin of omission” – not doing something g we should.

  • Ignoring the conviction God gives to talk to someone.

  • Not following through

Both are sins.

Worldly wisdom relies on our own sovereignty. Our own ability to know and control our futures. Our ability to make the best decisions for our good. Omitting God from the decision making process. A sin of omission.


Whereas Heavenly wisdom, an eternal perspective, acknowledges and relies on God’s sovereignty.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4”15

God is Sovereign. God is in control.

And this isn’t just a phrase for us to add onto a prayer. But as James has repeatedly taught us across the book, we are to not only say it but do it. We are to not only read this truth it in the Bible but act upon it.

If God is sovereign, if God is in full control, then…

  • God is in control of our work life.

  • God is in control of your family life.

  • God is in control of your marriage