Our future isn’t guaranteed, at least in this world

The following piece of wisdom comes from The C.S. Lewis Bible and is directed at the scripture I preached on last week: James 4:13-17. But it can as easily apply to this week’s scripture, James 5:1-6, which takes aim at materialistic Christians. Like the proverbial stone gathering moss, our “riches have rotted” and our “gold and silver have rusted” from the lack of use. If we were busy putting our wealth to use for God’s kingdom, it wouldn’t have time to corrode.

A common problem between last week’s scripture and this week’s is that we take for granted that we have a future on this earth. We don’t. Just as we plan for (and worry about) a future that isn’t guaranteed and may never arrive, we buy and hoard for the same reasons. We forget about eternity. We forget about God.

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.[†]

When I think of the things I’d like to possess right now—even small things, like an overpriced record at Record Store Day or a new book—I often wouldn’t enjoy them right away, even if I did possess them. After all, I have a few other books to read first. I haven’t finished sorting through that last box of records someone gave me. Yet I still feel this burning desire to possess them now. Such is the sickness of materialism.

C.S. Lewis, “Living in the Present” in The C.S. Lewis Bible, NRSV (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 1399.

5 thoughts on “Our future isn’t guaranteed, at least in this world”

  1. Quite true, our souls may be required of us at any time.
    Does this mean I should give up my three year plan to pay off my family’s debts?
    Does this mean I should not stock my pantry with food for myself, family and others in these uncertain times?
    Does this mean I should stop paying for our health insurance?
    I despise materialism, personally would prefer to own no more than fits on my bicycle, but it is simply as impossible for individuals to stop family and societal considerations as it is for the church to stop building physical structures and borrowing against the future to do so.

    1. I don’t despise materialism enough, otherwise I wouldn’t keep falling victim to it. But, no, I think we do as Lewis says: “take our long-term plans lightly,” understanding that God is subject to change them at any moment. In the previous chapter of James, he doesn’t condemn planning per se but an attitude toward the future that forgets about God, that fails to consider that God is ultimately in control.

      1. Thank you, I despise it, but there is always some thing or other that I find myself longing for and obsessed over.
        And truly, the poor can be as materialistic as t h e wealthy, and a rich person can be focused on God more than a poor one may be.
        God alone knows our hearts.
        I suppose the thing is, to know our time here is brief, and always to look towards God.

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