…for tomorrow we die. What was in part originally Solomon’s statement to point out the utter vanity he saw in some aspects of life has changed (Eccl. 8:15). It’s the “for tomorrow we die” part that changes everything. It changes this statement of an understanding of vanity into one pressing us to embrace hedonism. To live and do as we want for “tomorrow we die.” I have heard and read this concerning soldiers of old, when their leader tells them to “Eat, drink, and be merry” because tomorrow battle comes and they will most likely die. It doesn’t matter what they do tonight, for tomorrow they won’t be here. One could even imagine King Leonidas leading the Spartans at Thermopylae and saying this before the first wave of attack comes. We don’t really say that anymore, at least not commonly, but we say something much more devious. We say something that doesn’t make us feel the weight of our words, while promoting the same concept. It boils down to four letters: Y.O.L.O.
You Only Live Once. The danger in this statement is its seeming innocence. It doesn’t have the same blatant verbiage that serves to press us to live to please ourselves, but its subtlety is what so easily ensnares us. Sure, most people don’t consciously think of this when they say “you only live once” or attach a #yolo hashtag to Twitter or Instagram, but when we repeatedly tell ourselves something that is at best misleading, if not completely inaccurate, we begin to apply that mentality to things that do matter. You may think I’m crazy, or over-analyzing, but seeing as the Bible pretty much calls Satan the king of deception, I think a little leeway may be warranted.
Why it matters
When we say this, we condition ourselves to focus on this life as though it were our only life. We tell ourselves that it’s ok to do this thing, or buy that item, or spend time doing this because “you only live once.” If we don’t do it now, we’ll never get to do it. Some of those things may even be ok in and of themselves. My concern is that it shifts our mentality. It pushes eternity far from our hearts and makes us, at least subconsciously, live as though this life on Earth is all that matters. It creeps in and adds to our natural bent to live as though we were our own gods and as though there were no resurrection from the dead. It makes us focus on right here, right now instead of next week, next month, next year. Instead of focusing on kingdom work and the life in eternity that follows this fleeting existence, it narrows our focus to that which is trivial. It makes us bow down to the idols of our hearts instead of being wise and being good stewards.
Aside from constantly seeing #yolo pop up on Twitter messages and really wanting that fad to phase quickly, I think there is absolutely a redemptive way to look at this, as long as we consciously keep a gospel-centered approach to it. What if instead of making us focus on solely the present, it reminds us of the vapor that life really is. What if instead of pressing us toward hedonism, it pressed us to resolve with Jonathan Edwards to “do all I think or say to the glory of God and not to take into consideration my own comfort, profit or pleasure.” What if instead of pushing us toward comfort and laziness, it chimed in with John Piper and said Don’t Waste Your Life. What if instead of moving us toward the notion of “your best life now,” the gospel pressed us to pursue our best life later, even if that means suffering in this life. What if it reminded us to take into account that 70 or 80 years is infinitesimal compared to all of eternity.
So, you live this life once before you burst through the gates of eternity. You live once before you have to give an account for your life.