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James 4:14

ESV yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
NIV Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
NASB Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away.
CSB Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring--what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
NLT How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
KJV Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

What does James 4:14 mean?

James has spent most of this chapter warning about the wisdom of the world. This includes the attitude of success at all costs, and selfish ambition. In that context, verse 13 imagined the declaration of a businessman: "Today or tomorrow, we will…" James wants us to hear this statement in the context of his prior points. We should recognize our own arrogance in believing that we are the masters of our own fate. We want to think of ourselves as able to do whatever we put our minds to, especially if that involves gathering for ourselves money or status or comfort.

The first problem with that, James writes, is that we can't predict or control the future. We truly have no idea what will happen tomorrow. In addition to that, our lives are temporary and fragile. We are a mist that is here for a moment and then gone.

James isn't being a pessimistic downer. Nor is he denying the value of sound planning or judgment. As verse 16 shows, James is condemning these kinds of remarks in a mindset devoid of God's influence. He is asking us to understand and embrace our human limits instead of trying to shrug them off. Realizing how dependent and fragile we truly are is a major step in escaping the desperate pursuit of cash, power, and pleasure. James wants us to carry with us an awareness that our every moment, every movement, is dependent on God's grace, mercy, and will.
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