“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.” James 4:14 (NIV)
“We should play a board game,'' my oldest son said.
It was a carefree summer night with no sports practices to rush off to and no homework to complete for the next day. Immediately, I thought a family board game was a good idea, and the fact that it came from my teenage son was icing on the cake. The fact that he initiated a family activity was a big deal. He was choosing family over everything else in his life.
I had spent the past school year watching him transform from the boy I knew into the teen I barely recognized: His interests were different. His voice was deeper. His features were more mature. He was growing up, and I was learning to embrace the young man he was becoming and let go of the little boy he used to be.
Unfortunately, I missed the magnitude of this moment. As excited as I was to spend time with my kids, my attention was divided when we sat down to play a game of Clue. I needed to send just one more email before I could focus on the game completely uninhibited.
My kids proceeded to place the game pieces on the board and review the directions while I typed away. “I’ll just finish this email and then stop working,” I said to myself.
My youngest son rolled the dice and began to play. I was still typing.
“Close your computer,” they said as I pecked at the keyboard. I was so close to being done. Then my oldest son rolled the dice while I periodically glanced at my computer screen.
“You can’t play the game and be on your computer too,” he said. He was right.
I'm not very proud to say it took a third request from my children before I finally closed the lid of my laptop and allowed myself to be fully present, but I’m glad I did. This was more than a game of Clue. This was an opportunity to engage with my children — an opportunity I almost missed. This was a chance to choose what matters most rather than what appears urgent.
In the book of James, we are reminded of the brevity of life. James 4:14 says, “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.”
In this passage, James was speaking to people who placed their confidence in themselves and what they could do rather than depending on God. These people boasted about tomorrow, believing they were the masters of their own fates.
I was just as guilty. In the moment, on the night of the Clue game, I was depending on myself and my ability to send an email. I was prioritizing the completion of a task over spending time with my kids. I assumed I had all the time in the world to play a board game with them.
We all have formed these kinds of assumptions. Maybe we've believed there is ample time to say “I love you” to a loved one. Maybe we’ve reasoned we can push that date night with our husband back one more week. Maybe we’ve ignored the requests for quality time from our children.
For all of us tempted to prioritize the seemingly urgent over the important, James is reminding us that life is not promised to anyone. It is as fleeting as a vapor that will soon vanish. James is admonishing us to spend our time doing the will of God.
In that moment, God’s will was for me to play a game of Clue with my kids. He was giving me a much-needed opportunity to spend time with my boys, who are growing and changing every day. He was encouraging me to prioritize my kids over my work because their lives, just like mine, are like a vapor.
God’s will always prioritizes people over productivity.
Dear God, thank You for reminding me life is short. Help me to know what Your will is for my life so I consistently prioritize what matters most. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 144:4, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (ESV)
How is God leading you to prioritize what matters most? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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