Life Is A Vapor

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

In 1994, Wilmington, North Carolina lost her most distinguished citizen. Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Suzy Brunson was 123 years old when she passed from this life. Bill Clinton was president on the day of her death. Ulysses S. Grant was president on the day of her birth! She was seventy when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. She preceded Bell’s telephone (1875), the automobile (1895), and Marconi’s radio (1896). Among her descendants are ten great-great grandchildren! She lived in fourteen different decades, for nearly 1500 months, outlasting three husbands. She achieved a remarkable age, but she died. Mrs. Brunson serves as yet another reminder of the brevity of life. While she lived longer than many of us will, 123 years is nothing compared with eternity!

When I was a boy, I would go visit my great-aunt who lived next door. She made tea the old-fashioned way. Her tea kettle was nearly always on the stove, and I would hear it whistle and watch the steam rise from it. Just like the steam rising from that boiling tea kettle, James said our life is like a vapor that is quickly gone. The brevity of life is a truth which everybody believes, and yet how many really act as if they believe it. We are often made conscious of the brevity of the lives of others, but we persuade ourselves that our time is not quite so limited as theirs. “All men think all men mortal but themselves.”

Death is more expected when it comes to someone of advanced age in the wintertime of life, but what if it occurs in the springtime of youth? As I ate breakfast at our local restaurant called the Roundhouse the other day, I noticed on the wall an old metal Cracker Jack advertisement. As I looked at the sailor boy, it reminded me of the story behind it. When Cracker Jack creator Frederick Rueckheim decided to put a logo on the product’s package in the early 1900s, he modeled it after his own beloved grandson Robert, who often wore a sailor suit. But just as the first packages bearing the sailor boy rolled off the assembly line, Robert got pneumonia and died. Today little Robert’s tombstone in Chicago bears the Cracker Jack logo he inspired. Little did Mr. Rueckheim know when he put little Robert’s likeness on his Cracker Jack boxes that his grandson’s life would be only as vapor that appeared for a little time and then vanished away. In Psalm 39:4 David wrote, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” How we need to be reminded of that!
Since life is a vapor and time is valuable, with whom, young or old, should you spend some time today?

— Mike McDaniel