"You Do Not Know What a Day May Bring"

Bud Flanagan was usually at his desk before 8:00 a.m., but that morning a phone call at home made him late for work.

George Keith had an early appointment to get his car serviced.

Debbie Archimbaud’s bus was late.

Elizabeth Kramer was running behind that morning after a late night working on her master’s thesis.

David Gray decided to drive to work instead of taking the train. He got stuck in traffic.

Michael Lomonaco stopped off to pick up his new eyeglasses.

Larry Silverstein had considered going to the office rather than his doctor appointment that morning, but his wife wouldn’t hear of it.

Rob Herzog was exhausted from a business trip and slept an extra half hour.

Lorraine Wallace was sick.

Irshad Ahmed’s meeting that morning was pushed back, so he decided to go by Blockbuster to return some videos.

Jared Kotz had to make a detour to retrieve some papers.

Bill Trinkle missed his train.

And that’s why these people were not inside the World Trade Center in New York City that morning — Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Had it not been for those little decisions, interruptions, and inconveniences, all of these people likely would have perished in the terrorist attack that claimed nearly 3,000 lives that day.

For these people, and for many others that day, there was no warning of the calamity that was coming. They made their choices and responded to their circumstances with no idea that it would save their lives. Meanwhile, hundreds of others that morning also made their choices and responded to their circumstances with no idea that it would be their last day on earth.

Every day, you and I make hundreds of decisions, often hardly aware that we’re doing so. Every day we confront hundreds of variables and possibilities, myriad tiny interruptions and alterations to our plans. Even when a day goes pretty much as we anticipated, we could look back on it and see countless unexpected moments, occurrences, and choices.

That ought to humble us. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1).

While we have freedom of choice, we have far less control over our lives and our circumstances than we are often tempted to think.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

How should we think and act in the face of an uncertain future? William Barclay wrote:

The true Christian way is not to be terrorized into fear, and not to be paralyzed into inaction, by the uncertainty of the future, but to commit the future and all our plans into the hands of God, and always to remember that our plans may not be within the purpose of God. (The Letters of James and Peter 134)

Jesus told a parable about a man whose work was productive. He made adequate plans for his financial security. Then he sat back and rested on his accomplishments, supremely confident that the world was at his command. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’” The man was brought face to face with the one thing he had not planned for: the judgment of God. Jesus concluded, “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).

On that fateful Tuesday morning twenty years ago, hundreds of people got up, went to work, carried out their plans. But “their souls were required of them.” God alone knows whether they were prepared to meet Him. Are you?