“You only live once…”
How should we respond to the truth that we only get one shot at life?
One approach is hedonism. You only live once, therefore maximise selfish pleasure and sensual experience. Frank Sinatra, who seemed to have given this approach a good go, famously said: “You only live once, and the way I live, once is enough.”
OK. We all know that’s not the answer the minister is after. God is anti-pleasure and “anti” any kind of experience that might amount to fun, right? Actually, when faced with a world of hedonistic sinners, God’s response was not to just demand a path of ascetic self-denial.
So, what does God’s Word say about the typical hedonistic“YOLO” lifestyle?
It’s never really fulfilling.
The author of Ecclesiastes (probably King Solomon) was someone who, as the saying goes, “sucked the marrow out of life”: “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves whowere born in my house…I amassed silver and gold for myself, andthe treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man…Idenied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart nopleasure….”
Yet after all this he concludes: “when I surveyed all that my handshad done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:4–11 NIV)
It’s just stupid to deny God’s hold on your life.
Jesus told a parable about a greedy farmer who, after a very successful season in life, said to himself: “You have plenty of goodthings laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and bemerry.” (Luke 12:19). But that very night (v20), the God who gave him his life in the first place “demands it back”, and calls him a“fool” for ignoring his mortality and accountability to Him.
In another parable (Matt 25:14-30) Jesus tells of a Master who, before departing on along journey, entrusts “talents” (a form ofcurrency) to three different servants. When he returns he finds that the first two servants have worked and invested and risked and, ultimately, grown his wealth. They arecommended as “good and faithful” servantsand rewarded with even more. But the third servant who did nothing to grow theMaster’s wealth is called “wicked and slothful” and condemned to hell!
Those passages paint a pretty bleak picture! If we get this wrong, we face the prospect of reaching the end of our one life in complete disillusionment (like the guy in Ecclesiastes). Worse than that, we face the prospect of reaching the next life faced with a God who condemns us as foolish and/or wicked! (like the guys in the parables).
What’s the solution?
The first thing is to realise just how much our loving and gracious God has done to help people avoid making these very mistakes. He has “set eternity in the hearts of people” (Eccl 3:11) so that we all intrinsically know and feel that there is more to life than just the material.
He also raised his Son from the dead, giving him a glorious, eternal resurrection body so that we can know for sure that this world is not all there is. The Apostle Paul says: “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor 15:32). If it weren’t for the resurrection of Jesus, the typical “YOLO” way of life would actually make perfect sense. But Jesus’resurrection proved there is more than just the one life on this side of the grave. He opened the way to eternal life for us all. We can know that, in Christ, the next million, billion, trillion years are secure. That puts a different perspective on how we spend the next thirty, forty, fifty.
The second thing is to take a closer look at those parables and realise that the best way to live life now, is in a living, active relationship with this loving and gracious God.
- – The greedy farmer’s fundamental mistake was that hewas “not rich toward God” during his life (Luke 12:21).
- – The “wicked” third servant had the kind of detached fear of his Master which paralysed him into a life of no risk and no effort: “‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that youare a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in theground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ (Matt 25:24- 25). He was more concerned about living a safe life thangrowing his Master’s glory.
But our Master sent his one and only Son into this world so that selfish hedonists, like you and me, can be forgiven. In that context of love and security he calls on us to live lives for the growth of his glory. This will mean risk and sacrifice and stress andsuffering…but, ultimately: great purpose, real fulfillment and eternal reward.
Over the coming six weeks in our “One Life” sermon series, we’llbe exploring in more detail what it looks like to live this one life for the glory of God.