Carpe Diem?! Pr. Luke Hsieh
“Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life…whatever your hand finds to do, do with with your might.”
The bible teaches us that we do not practice asceticism, rather, we are permitted to enjoy all that is good in life, given that we still abide by the commandments. Since life is short, we must make the most of the present, fulfilling our individual lives’ roles.
A Life that will Pass Away
Human lives are quite frail; no one knows what each day will bring forth (Pro 27:1). Perhaps due to a car accident, a life is lost. This is why Jesus’s own brother, James, said, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (Jas 4:14). “Vapor” in the original text is written as “atmis”, which is “smoke” or air-like “vapor”. It is like the vapor that emerges from a boiling kettle and vanishes soon after. Human life is like this. A lazy person may find any excuse not to go out. “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!” (Pro 22:13). Unexpected situations are not teaching us to hide in our homes, but rather to make use of every ray of light, every moment. This is so we can do what we should do and want to do; this is so we can say what we should say and want to say. Otherwise, when time passes, we will regret that we did not do them. Regret comes from being able to do something, but not doing it. As if leaving a part of our youth blank. Regret is having the choice not to do something and yet still doing it. Both aspects are negative.
Life is like that of flowing water. Our feet step into the river twice, once behind and once in front; the water we touch both times is different. Time and space continue to change. History leaves behind wisdom and teachings, so that we do not repeat our past mistakes. This is because man, situation, time, earth, and matters are all different. We only live in the present as things stand. The past is the past, unable to return. The future may come unexpectedly, but it may not, because we are no longer here. Only “Now” belongs to us, so we must “seize the now”.
The Importance of Not Delaying
“But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermind will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” (Ecc 9:4-6)
Death is a form of breaking apart; when life is cut, all is over. At the same time, a life that is alive has hope in everything; this is perhaps better, or perhaps worse. No matter what, having hope gives people the strength to live. A dog returns to his own vomit (2 Pt 3:22). We can see that a dog’s value is not high. A lion is considered the king of all animals, authority on its every facet. Yet, a dead lion cannot compare to a living dog.
Some people may have hundreds of apprehensions before doing something, thus not acting impulsively. This is a good thing. But being hesitant about too much will unfortunately lead to missing out on opportunities. There was a youth who started job hunting soon after graduating university. He was debating about whether to go to a company to work, thinking about all the pros and cons, hesitant and indecisive. He ended up spending five years living with his family, eating away at his savings. After working for five years, he was debating whether or not to get married. He went back and forth about the pros and cons; once again hesitant and indecisive. He delayed for another five years and met a young woman. He debated about marrying her or not, weighing the pros and cons. Yet again hesitant, indecisive. He delayed another five years, finally deciding to marry the woman. He went to her and professed his love. The young woman replied, “Sir, I’ve already married and had a child. I’m sorry I didn’t wait for you. Opportunities do not wait for people.”
Attending funerals is a good opportunity to reflect. “Better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.” (Ecc 7:2). Taking a moment of pause in the midst of a busy life to look back and look forward; death may happen at anytime. How many items are on my bucket list? Within our lives, we must have a heart of wisdom to grasp what is truly valuable, no longer wasting time and life.
The Flavour of Joy
In the realm of humans, there are two types of joy: one of fleshly pleasures, and another that is mental satisfaction. Food, drink, clothing are all related to our physical bodies; enjoying these things bring us a sense of joy. However, these enjoyments are short-lived; after a few hours, we feel lacking again and need to continue looking for a way to feel joyful again. Over time, some may get fed up with this process, no longer feeling refreshed. Mental satisfaction may last a bit longer – reading books to accumulate wisdom can bring joy to people. Listening to beautiful music can bring a sweetness. Meeting with good friends brings a sense of never having enough wine. King Solomon’s joy should have been at the top of the world. “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor.” (Ecc 2:10). And yet he said at the end of everything that all is vanity, like grasping the wind. All things are full of labor; man cannot express it, The is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. (Ecc 1:8). Then what is a joy that can last and not cut short? Is there something under the heavens so beautiful? (Ecc 2:3).
Coming to know God, the almighty creator of all allows us to obtain His abidance and grace, have food and drink, enjoy the fruits of our labor, rejoice in the midst of toil, not think about our age, not fear the length of our lives – this is because God gives our hearts true joy (Ecc 5:18-20). The beginning of our lives is from God – He gives each of us an individual role and purpose, thus being born into this world at a specified time and place. When we find God and commune with Him while reading the Bible, praying, singing hymns, we can understand the value and purpose of our lives. This kind of joy is one that can fulfill our lives every moment in time.
We are able to be joyful because we know of how good God is, and so we happily introduce Him to our loved ones, hoping they can also be like us and come to know God and the meaning of their own lives. The process of evangelizing can also fulfill our joy – guiding a truthseeker, allowing them to emerge from life’s toils and know God, receiving grace, and reaching a turning point in their lives.
Paul was originally a very devout Pharisee who persecuted Christians. He subconsciously struggled within about good and evil. What he willed to do, he could not do; what he hated, he did. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice (Rom 7:18-19). “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Thank God – Paul was able to rely on the Holy Spirit’s help and leave the life of sin and death (Rom 8: 26, 37). From then on, Paul saw all the things of the world as dirty. Realizing that Jesus is the true treasure, he went all over the world to preach the gospel, hoping others could be like him. From this, he could experience the flavour of joy.
Jesus told His disciples to love one another, so that others could see that they are His disciples (Jn 13:34-35). There is joy in love because in the process of giving we give our lives value. We can also see the growth of others. There is a Jewish saying that doing good deeds is like sprinkling perfume – the receiver gets a sweet aroma and the giver also has such an aroma.
Life is fickle and so we must “seize the day,” but not in a way that goes against God’s commandments. Within the realm of humans, we can only enjoy short-term joy; whereas, we can elevate our lives by revering God, drawing closer to Him, loving one another. In this we can be rooted deeply in our lives, understanding the mystery of wisdom, extending our lives, being marked in God’s book of life and living eternally in paradise.
Paul knew when he was to leave this world. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Tim 4:6-8). His life drew to a close, concluding beautifully.
「你只管去歡歡喜喜吃你的飯，心中快樂喝你的酒，因為神已經悦納你的作為，你的衣服當時常潔白，你頭上也不要缺少膏油。…. 當同你所愛的妻，快活度日。…. 凡你手所當做的事要盡力去做。」（傳九7~10）聖經教導我們不是禁慾主義，而是可以享受生活的美好，在遵守誡命，得神喜悅的條件下，快活度日。因為生命無常，我們要把握現在，盡力完成每個人獨特的生命任務。
死亡是一個斷裂，將生命切斷，一切都結束了。相對的，活的生命對一切都有指望，可能更好，也可能更壞，但是無論如何，有希望總是帶給人生活的力量。狗所吐的，牠轉過來又吃（彼後二22），所以狗的價值不高 ; 獅子稱為百獸之王，四面威風，但是死的獅子卻沒有任何動作，比不上活潑跳耀的狗。