I am constantly seeing memes and posts on social media that say things like, “you only live once,” “Life is short,” “Drink it up today.” I see a lot of posts about getting the most out of life because it’ll be over before you know it.
There’s some truth to that. This isn’t anything new. There’s the old saying “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.”
That saying comes partly from Ecclesiastes 8:15. I don’t believe that it captures the same idea that the Scripture is trying to get across. Here is the text from the ESV. “And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”
It is true that we should enjoy life. There are many blessings in this life that we will miss out on if we’re not careful. God is a good God who has given His children much. Often times, much more than we realize.
While all of that may be true, I don’t agree with the hedonistic sentiment that is becoming all too pervasive throughout our culture.
My home church recently experienced the passing of a wonderful woman of God. Her name was Pat and she was extremely involved in our church. I honestly can’t tell you all about Pat’s life, but I can tell you a few things about her.
Pat was the church secretary for much of my life. She was always involved in something. She helped out with Bible quizzing when I was a teenager. She taught one of my Sunday School classes. She experienced great loss when one of her children died far too young in an accident. She also battled cancer for over a decade. I can tell you that she always demonstrated great faith throughout those hard times.
I can tell you about her children who are still alive. I can tell you how her daughter is married to a man who used to be my youth pastor. Now as a couple they travel all over ministering to people through music. They have impacted so many people through their lives and their ministry. They continue to impact people.
I can tell you about her son who is currently serving on staff at a church in Ohio as a full time minister. I can tell you about the several lives he’s impacted and continues to impact.
I can tell you about her husband who still survives her. Every time we speak he gives me encouraging words. He often takes the time to remind me that I have a good father who he respects. He has impacted people and continues to do so.
This week I went to the funeral home to pay my respects to her family and hopefully to say an encouraging word or two about how she is better and in a better place now. The funeral home was packed with many familiar faces and many faces I had never seen. I’m sure that, between the viewing and the funeral, hundreds of people came to show their support of a woman who had impacted them. I’m also certain that there were hundreds who wanted to come and could not.
As I saw all of those people in that room and I saw her husband, children and grandchildren, I could not help but stand in awe of the legacy she has left.
She did not seem to live only for herself. I’m not saying that she was a stuffy woman who never enjoyed life. She almost always had a smile on her face. She definitely enjoyed life. She just wasn’t selfish about it. She was involved with her family, with the church and her community. She cared and loved other people, sometimes at her own expense. She knew that there was more to life than just her own pleasure and enjoyment.
Psalm 112 tells us that a man (or woman) who fears the Lord and delights in His commandments will be blessed. Their offspring will be mighty in the land. Their righteousness will endure forever.
This scripture is talking about a legacy. Who you are and what kind of life you live matters. It matters to you. It matters to others. It matters to God.
We grow up in the west being told this gigantic lie. We’re told either that what we do only affects us or that as long as what we do doesn’t hurt anyone else, it doesn’t matter. The truth is that what you do always affects and impacts others. Other people see what you do and who you are.
I was talking the other day with a friend at work. She said that when her kids were young she used to take them outside to play at 10:00 am. One day she ran into a neighbor who made the comment, “I can set my watch by what time you bring your kids out everyday.”
She didn’t know it, but someone was watching. The truth is that someone is always watching. People see what you do, how you do it, why you do it and that leaves an impression. We either leave a good impression or a bad one.
The easiest place to see this is with children. If you have your own children or if you’re deeply involved in the lives of any children, you know this is true. Kids repeat things that you never thought they heard. They see where you go, who you talk to, what you read, what kind of music you listen to, what kind of toothpaste you buy. They see everything.
How you live will impact how they live. How they live will impact how their children live. How their children live will impact… you get the idea.
In the Bible we see that King David had many wives and children. One of those sons was Amnon. Amnon had fallen in love (probably lust) with his half sister Tamar, one of David’s daughters. Amnon knew that they could not be together, but that didn’t stop him from desiring her.
One day with Amnon pretended to be sick. He asked David if Tamar could bring him some food and take care of him. David sent Tamar to care for her brother. When Tamar came he took hold of her to rape her. She begged him not to, but refused to listen to her.
Amnon is clearly responsible for his actions and choices, but where do you think he learned that behavior? Where do you think he learned that it was okay to objectify women, that it was okay to lust for women, that it was ok to take what you clearly were not supposed to have? Could it be from his father?
David took Bathsheba when she was married to someone else. He used his position and power to take what was not his. He used his position and power to try to cover it up. Amnon clearly picked up on that part of the legacy that David was leaving behind.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but David was not perfect. He struggled. He made mistakes. Those mistakes cost him and his family. His actions not only impacted him but generations that came after him.
You’re decisions and my decisions impact us now. They impact our neighbors. They impact our friends. They impact our families. They will impact the generations that come after us. History, common sense and the Bible all tell us this is true.
Society tells us something different. Sure they want us to recycle for future generations (which I support). They seem to think that’s the only impact that matters. Apparently the moral impact just doesn’t matter.
Here’s the truth. Late nights of partying will leave an impact. Experimenting with drugs will leave an impact. Having an affair will leave an impact. Stealing will leave and impact. Cheating on a test or on your taxes will leave and impact. Praying will leave an impact. Studying the Scriptures will leave an impact. Helping the poor will leave an impact. Working hard will leave an impact. Telling the truth, even when it’s hard, will leave an impact.
So the question that I’ve been asking myself all week has been this. What kind of impact am I going to leave on my family, on my friends and in my community? What will my legacy be? When I die will I be like Pat, surrounded by those whose lives are better because of my faithfulness, or will I die surrounded by people who only remember the times I “lived it up?”
Here’s my challenge to myself and to you. I believe that joy is an essential part of life and in particular the Christian life. I don’t think that we need to be joyless, lifeless creatures running around this earth. I believe that in our attempt to “live it up” we must understand how that affects our legacy. We must do so in a way that enriches the future and does not rob from it.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Are you living out that legacy now?