In life, people are pushing towards something. Even those whose lives revolve around punching the clock, paying the bills, and dying. Like dogs chasing cars, we chase something just out of reach, and might not know what to do with it if we ever caught it. This post was born out of a conversation that started at work that I carried online. We’ll be looking at this question, to live is __________, and to die is __________? Also, we’ll examine some of the answers I got and the ultimate conclusion.
“All I Need Is 80 Years”
That’s what a coworker told me when he got back from a relative’s funeral. He said she
had lived a long and full life, so she was content. I asked him what would it take for him to be content. Eighty years. Then he asked me the same question. My answer surprised us both and led to this train of thought. Let’s start with the time needed for contentment.
Why is the death of a child tragic to society where an elderly person only makes the obituaries? It’s from a sense of unfairness, the kid never got to live a full life. It’s the same thought I wrestled with last month on my late godson’s birthday. To live is a long life, to die young is a travesty.
Like a scale, the younger a person is the more life they should have ahead of them; the older, the more opportunities they had. Sadly, we’re not guaranteed a set time, nor can we really buy time. There was a movie released in 2011, In Time, where people aged to a certain point in their prime and would drop dead. The premise was they work for more time on the planet. To keep track of it they had a counter on their arms that was counting down the time they had left.
We don’t have that. I could die of an aneurysm while writing this, a ticking time bomb in my brain. Since you’re reading this, I didn’t. The thought is scary to write about, but less for me and more for my loved ones. Don’t rely on the hopes of a long life for contentment. I’ve seen too many die young to harbor that illusion.
To Live Is To Learn, To Die Is To Stagnate
That was one answer to my question on Facebook. I can readily identify with it. Most of my free time is spent reading or listening to something that makes me think. While we learn, we are moving forward, there is a progression. When the progression stops, we wither and die. Think of a shark, it has to swim so life-giving oxygen passes through it gills. If it stops, it can’t breathe. It takes forward movement for both the curious and the sharks.
With learning and knowledge, you can effect change in the world. This works interpersonally in two ways: persuasion or force. Persuasion addresses the heart and/or the mind; the other addresses fear and self-preservation. Both require knowing how people tick.
With knowledge- the obtaining and using of it- books are written, schools opened, skills are passed on, and research labs are making the world both smaller and bigger at the same time. A writer can help someone thousands of miles away. The surgeon that is saving lives had to learn somewhere. Our telescopes see further, and our particle accelerators discover a new particle every year it seems like. Knowledge is power some like to say. It’s also a burden and responsibility.
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” Ecclesiastes 1:18 NIV
Because you can see so much and so deep, you hurt and shout at the wrongs and injustices. That was wrote by Solomon, king of Israel and son of David, famous for his wisdom and not taking his own advice. In the end, he realized everything is meaningless if you rely on knowledge, power, pleasures, and material things.
“And I applied myself by heart and mind to seek and search out by [human] wisdom all human activity under heaven. It is a miserable business which God has given to the sons of man with which to busy themselves. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a striving after the wind and a feeding on wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14 AMP
One aspect of life is filled, at the end though…it’s still curtains for you.
To Live Is For Your Family
To die? That wasn’t answered; however, outside our individualistic culture, there are cultures where ancestors are remembered and honored. They provide a legacy to live up to. Let’s look at the family and what it represents.
For you as a kid, obviously it starts with birth, and for the next 18 years you’re cared for, taught how to live on your own, and fly the coop. Simple enough. Now to look at it from a parent’s point of view.
They started off free as birds, met each other, and built a nest together. Along came you, this helpless little human, unable to clean, feed, or defend yourself. Left alone, you would have died. Taking care of you was a full-time job.
Yet, they love you. Family at its ideal is a picture of self-sacrificing love. The kids are the future and parents can shape the future by how they raise their kids. Yes, the kid has a choice, but parents generally try to guide them down the right path. Seeing your kids grow up to be good people can make it worth all the sacrifice. That’s just the a piece of it, insufficient on its own.
How’s That Not Good Enough?
Alone, individually, these things are not; together it’s better. Consider this, time is needed to gain knowledge and flourish with your family. Learning and knowledge is needed to have a stable family through work skills, parenting, and conflict resolution.
Time wasted is a life wasted, make use of it. Knowledge gained for the sake of it leads to pride and loneliness. It’s hard to be a know-it-all, I’m a recovering one. Life focused purely on family leads to burnout and anger when in the end you have nothing if they’re gone.
Well What Makes You Content Then?
That was the question asked of me. After a bit of thought, I said, “I could die tomorrow and be fine.” I would worry about my wife, though we made preparations for that eventuality. I am content, though. How is that possible at 32 years old?
To Live Is Christ
“For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity]. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose]” Philippians 1: 21-22 AMP
What’s to live in Christ even mean? I mainly live for Jesus. Rather than grasp desperately at prolonging life here, I use it to be of service. To share and show love to family, friends, enemies, and strangers. Ripples spread from every encounter, impact is made. If my work brings one person to Christ then that’s one more I’ll see again.
Knowledge has a place in all this. As we learn, the sheer complexity of God’s work is made known. That’s what science is, our observation of the world around us. Not to be confused with the God-of-the-gaps, He’s at work through the natural processes he sat into place. Philosophy and the logic needed is the reasoning we use to understand science, life, and the world. Theology is the study of God, learning about Him and deepening the relationship. It’s all used to help others.
Family, that picture of self-sacrificial love, carries humanity into the future. A family focused inwards stagnates. They focus forward and they’re still not promised a legacy of any value; but, if they look up? A family focused on God, while not immune to the pain of losing someone, has the promise of seeing them again.
An example for you, look straight ahead. Note how wide your vision is. Now look up with your eyes. Did your vision get wider?
So it is with God at the center. You can see more, and to give more. To focus solely on Him is the greatest commandment according to Jesus; however, you can’t ignore the second one. Jesus said it was like the first, to love others as you love yourself. They’re to be followed together, not separately. C.S Lewis put it this way, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
That’s contentment, a life lived fully in Christ. To die is what, though?
To Die Is Gain
Sounds fatalistic and morbid, doesn’t it? It would be if there is nothing after the lights go out. However, for the Christian, absent from the body that is already slowly dying, means to be present with the Savior. This world is a faint shadow of what’s in store. Our mortal life is a twinkling that is lived in the fullest, the eternal life afterward is incomparable.
Fear of death is a necessary survival instinct that keeps us from doing something stupid. Despite having that fear, we still die, and then what? If you died today, what does that mean for you? Are you losing something or gaining something?
You don’t have to lose anything.
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16 AMP
What you get from the world can’t save you, nor totally satisfy you. There’s a hole to be filled, something missing. This world is temporary. The answer is not of this world; it’s Jesus, through which everything was created. Through him, we can have eternal life. By not being focused inward, we can better see outward, and everything comes together.