“Live as though you were going to die tomorrow.” Is it possible to make this saying a guide to living? From a practical perspective, I have problems with it.
Suppose you were an employee in a dead-end retail job. If you were going to die tomorrow, wouldn’t you quit your job? If vast members of the workforce were to take this saying seriously, which is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, many would tender their resignations immediately. But then what would they do the next day? The saying doesn’t tell us.
Now if your doctor shocked you with the news that you had less than a day to live, you would probably make radically different choices, such as calling your friends and family for last words, and wrapping up loose ends in your life to make it easier for your surviving family.
You could do that today, of course (assuming you were healthy), but when the calls were over and your affairs were put in order, how would you apply this saying to the next day? Once again, the saying doesn’t seem to have long-range, practical value.
I suppose we could apply the saying philosophically, such as don’t take things so seriously; don’t let troubles overwhelm, because they’ll be over. That approach seems to have a little more value, but we might as well say not to take life so seriously in the first place rather than to live as though each day were our last. It is certainly plainer to the average person when you put it that way.
Another way to apply it would be to use one’s time wisely. If this were your last day, what would be most important? How would you end the day with no regrets? This makes the saying more sensible, but it could be misused by the criminal mind: “I would steal the bigger piece, not the smaller one.” The immoral mind could also abuse this by making wrong choices.
Did Jesus live as though every day were his last? No, he lived every day to please his heavenly Father. He lived to do the will of God. He had a purpose for living and he pursued it to the end. We would do well to follow Jesus’ example. It involves learning of God and taking the time to obey him. We were designed by God to have a relationship with him, and our walk with God in this life will have an impact in the next one.
What do you think?
a. Many people misapply Scripture because they don’t know the context; they don’t know why the words were uttered. We do this with philosophical and literary sayings as well. For instance, many quote, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” without knowing the circumstances behind Shakespeare’s words. Do you know the context of Gandhi’s saying? If you don’t, can you be confident you could follow it the way he meant it to be understood?
b. If this were truly your last day on this earth, would honoring God be one of the things you would do today?
c. If a person does not know the Creator God, would such sayings as Gandhi’s turn one to love God with all of one’s heart?
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