James, the Lord’s half-brother, has a pretty stark view as he addresses early believers:


“…You are just a vapor…”

–James 4:14 (NASB)¹


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   Of course, this needs a context. James is discussing proper Christian behavior and not selfishly making long- and short-range plans as foolish (and arrogant) nonbelievers do.

   Let’s take a step past that.

   This is a clear–and easy to discuss–metaphor, describing something by calling it something else. It’s no lie. Metaphors are often better tools to describe something¹ than literal expression. The large, whole Bible context is clear about several things about what humans are, and should do. Let’s roughly summarize:

   (1)  Humans are created in the image of God.

   (2)  They, on Earth, are referred to as “souls” or having souls².

   (3)  These souls, while on Earth, reside in the “chooser” that is housed in the brain.

   (4)  Souls, apparently, cannot be visualized (at least by other humans) and weigh nothing that can be measured on a scale.

   (5)  These souls are eternal. In one place, Jesus makes clear that a person should not fear those that can kill the body (that can disappear forever), but those that kill the soul (Mt. 10:28).

   (6)  One’s soul then is very precious–and at risk.

   (7)  And now our passage from James. The big picture is this: Our life experiences on Earth are miniscule, and perhaps ultimately forgettable,  compared to the totality of human existence.

   (8)  What then? Live well, wisely, and obediently to God on Earth now. This “shapes” a person, or soul, and prepares one for what lies ahead.


   ¹ The Bible is full of “holy metaphor.” For example, Jesus told the pharisee Nicodemus that he must be “born again” which puzzled his very literal mind.

   ² The soul as a concept deserves careful consideration.