The problem of putting all of your eggs in one basket.
| Jonathan Edwards writes in his treatise on procrastination that we ought to behave ourselves every day as though we had no dependence on any other day. The books of wisdom as well give us valuable advice for living. Pro. 8:17 advises us to do whatever our hands find to do with all our might. Eccl. cautions the young to remember their creator when they are young and so inclined with the energy of mind and body. Of course, the most profitable manner of approach for both of these actions is a matter of the proper use of time. Pro. 27:1 cautions, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” What in this life could be as true? As James writes, “Life is like a vapor…” A man may dress in his finest attire and leave his house early in order not to be late for his scheduled appointments. He may do this with some anticipation, having no idea that he will lie in the morgue by noon.
Now, there are many things a man may be able, in one sense, to call his own. Tomorrow is not one of them. Edwards says that “ He that boast of tomorrow acts as though he had tomorrow in his possession.” At this point, we should make one thing perfectly clear as to the teaching Edwards puts forth. It is not to be understood as a strange thing that a man should go to his bed at night with the belief that he will awake in the morning. It would be considered unusual if a man did not expect to wake in the morning. On the other hand, depending on a new day and making plans as though it were a certainty may well prove to be unwise. One particularly well off man in the Bible did that very thing, and he is immortalized in scripture for that very reason. You may remember that he boasted to himself that he had goods laid in store for many years. In a very true sense, you could say that he was promising himself that he would live long enough to need those stored up goods. The Bible is sure to tell us that he did not live to realize his future plans. The book of James warns us that we should remember to say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.” James goes on to tell us that such boasting in our future is sinful.
Man's life is a SHORT thing. It is not only a vanity but a short-lived vanity. Consider,
1. How the life of man is reckoned in the Scriptures. It was indeed sometimes reckoned by hundreds of years– but no man ever arrived at a thousand, which yet bears no proportion to eternity. Now hundreds are brought down to scores; threescore and ten, or fourscore, is its utmost length, Psalm 90:10. But few men arrive at that length of life. Death does but rarely wait, until men be bowing down, by reason of age, to meet the grave. Yet, as if years were too big a word for such a small thing as the life of man on earth, we find it counted by months, Job 14:5. "The number of his months are with you." Our course, like that of the moon, is run in a little time– we are always waxing or waning until we disappear.
But frequently it is reckoned by days; and these but few, Job 14:1, "Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days." No, it is but one day, in Scripture account; and that a hireling's day, who will precisely observe when his day ends, and give over his work, ver. 6, "Until he shall accomplish as a hireling his day."
Yes, the Scripture brings it down to the shortest space of time, and calls it a moment, II Cor. 4:17, "Our light affliction," though it last all our life long, "is but for a moment." Elsewhere it is brought down yet to a lower pitch, farther than which one cannot carry it, Psalm 39:5, "My age is as nothing before you." Agreeably to this, Solomon tells us, Eccl. 3:2, "There is a time to be born, and a time to die"; but makes no mention of a time to live, as if our life were but a skip from the womb to the grave.
2. Consider the various SIMILITUDES by which the Scripture represents the shortness of man's life. Hear Hezekiah, Isa. 38:12, "My age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I am cut off like a weaver's shuttle." The shepherd's tent is soon removed; for the flocks must not feed long in one place; such is a man's life on this earth, quickly gone. It is a web which he is incessantly working; he is not idle so much as for one moment– in a short time it is wrought, and then it is cut off. Every breathing is a thread in this web; when the last breath is drawn, the web is woven out; he expires, and then it is cut off, he breathes no more.
Man is like grass, and like a flower, Isa. 40:6. "All flesh," even the strongest and most healthy flesh, "is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field." The grass is flourishing in the morning; but, being cut down by the mowers, in the evening it is withered– so man sometimes is walking up and down at ease in the morning, and in the evening is lying a corpse, being struck down by a sudden blow, with one or other of death's weapons.
The flower, at best, is but a weak and tender thing, of short continuance wherever it grows– but observe, man is not compared to the flower of the garden; but to the flower of the field, which the foot of every beast may tread down at any time. Thus is our life liable to a thousand accidents every day, any of which may cut us off. But though we should escape all these, yet at length this grass withers, this flower fades by itself. It is carried off "as the cloud is consumed, and vanishes away," Job 7:9. It looks big as the morning cloud, which promises great things, and raises the expectation of the husbandman; but the sun rises, and the cloud is scattered; death comes, and man vanishes!
The apostle James proposes the question, "What is your life?" chapter 4:14. Hear his answer, "It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." It is frail, uncertain, and does not last. It is as smoke, which goes out of the chimney as if it would darken the face of the heavens; but quickly it is scattered, and appears no more– thus goes man's life, and "where is he?" It is wind, Job 7:7, "O remember that my life is wind." It is but a passing blast, a short puff, "a wind that passes away, and comes not again," Psalm 78:39. Our breath is in our nostrils as if it were always upon the wing to depart; ever passing and repassing, like a traveler, until it goes away, not to return until the heavens are no more.
Most common among men is that of putting off the time of their redemption. When the apostle Paul was brought before the governor of Caesarea, Felix by name, Paul preached to him salvation through Christ. During the course of Paul’s preaching, Felix became very uneasy at what Paul was saying, telling him, “Go away for the present; when I have a more convenient opportunity I will send for you.” We have no idea whether such an opportunity ever occurred. God does provide means for the salvation of men. They should avail themselves of them when the opportunities arise. Edwards writes that those who have been seeking the Lord in a dull, insincere, and slight manner, and finding no good effect of it should conclude that they had better get down to such business in earnest. But there lies the rub. For if they do not get to the business now they may never have a more convenient season for doing so. It is sadly true that a man may never again get the chance to say that he is sorry or to make restitution.
Charles Spurgeon lends his insightful contribution to our study. Spurgeon comments that boasting of what will be done on the morrow can be exceedingly hurtful. He writes: “I never knew a man who was always hoping to do great things in the future, that ever did much in the present. I never knew a man who intended to make a fortune by-in-bye, whoever saved sixpence a week now. Such men spend so much time in building castles in the air, that they have no stones left wherewith to build so much as a cottage on the ground. Some men are led to an extraordinary extravagance. They spend what they are going to have. They believe, that, although they cannot pay for it now, they will in the future. Another problem with boasting of tomorrow is the fact that tomorrow is most often not what you expected it would be. A common thought is that tomorrow will always be better than today. But then tomorrow arrives and we are disappointed because it did not carry with it what was expected. And there is the very experience of men in this life when they do not provide for those they count dear – if indeed they do count them so. And so, when they are gone to their eternity there is nothing laid up for those they leave behind. It was most often in their thinking that they would take care of such business at some latter time.” These are just a few of the problems resulting from boasting of tomorrow.
Finally, there is a very good reason that the God of heaven has concealed from every man the day of his death. Believers, in particular, should understand this very well. For it is in believers most of all that excitement and anticipation should heighten the enjoyment of life. Believers are also commanded to watch for they do not know at what hour their Lord may appear. The apostle Paul commands believers to wake out of sleep. Indeed, every church service may be the last you attend. Every sermon may be the last you hear. If we could all treat the time we have left as precious we would not be found wanting when our time is at an end.