The Unpredictable

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)

Our society builds financial industries on the uncertainty of life, while the same society convinces people that they will live indefinitely.

Consider the prepaid funeral. The salesperson in numerous ways focuses people on life’s uncertainty. Your attention likely will be focused on the tragedy generated by loved ones having a funeral expense at a horrible, emotional time. In no way would you burden loved ones with a major expense at an emotional time that rejects rational thought.

Thus, the insurers want to insure you against death because they think you will live long -- long enough to make the insurance profitable. However, in this instance, you buy the insurance because you do not think you will live long enough to accumulate the funds your burial will require. Thus, your awareness of life’s uncertainty produces an industry.

Take a moment to think in the opposite direction. Think of how much of your life is based on your confidence that it will be long. You spend as if you will live long. You buy as if your income always will be the same or better. You plan as if you have much marketable time before you.

If asked, “When are you going to die?” you look at the person as if he (or she) is crazy. If asked when you are going to be laid off, you think, “Have you lost your mind?” If asked, “When will your business fail?” you ask, “Do you know something I don’t?”

Last weekend I attended the 50th reunion of my high school graduation. (No comments about my age, please—be respectful to the elderly!) Of the 19 who graduated then, 14 were present. Only 3 had died, and only one (me) used a cane.

I spent time with my science teacher to whom I owe a lot. He also preached and was a Christian encourager. Though a science teacher, he taught me (a) the importance of studying scripture in context and (b) there is (was) more to obedience than facts.

In his 80s, he walks with difficulty. Parkinson’s disease makes it impossible for him to write or type. Though he still thinks deeply and clearly, his means of expressing himself are limited. Twenty years ago, I would not have predicted this for him in his later years.

James says, “Assume nothing! The right thing to do is accept the uncertainty of your humanity.”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 10 July 2008


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