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.”

(Ecc 9:7-10)

 

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.

 

及時行樂?!                                                                                                 謝宏駿

 

        「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。

 

無常的生命 

        人的生命非常脆弱,誰也不知道一天會發生什麼事情和意外(箴二十七1),可能一個車禍,人的生命就沒了。所以主的兄弟雅各才會說,「我們的生命原來是一片雲霧,出現少時就不見了」(雅四14),「雲霧」的希臘原文是atmis,是煙(smoke),或是蒸氣(vapor),從沸騰燒開的爐子上冒出來的,出現一下子就消失了。人的生命就是如此無常。懶惰人會以此為理由而不出門,「外頭有獅子,我在街上就必被殺。」(箴二十二13)可能有意外卻不是叫我們躲在家裡,反而更要把握每寸光陰,每個時刻,去做我們該做和想做的事情,去說我們該說和想說的話語。否則時間過去了,才遺憾或後悔都沒有用。遺憾就是可以做而沒有做,青春留白。後悔就是可以不做而去做,痛心疾首。兩者都不好。

        生命像流水一樣,我們的腳前後兩次踏進流動的河水裡,所碰觸的水都是不一樣的。時間和空間一直轉變,歷史給我們留下智慧和教訓,卻不會重演,因為人、事、時、地、物都不一樣。我們只活在當下,此時此地。過去的已經過去,不能回來,未來可能會來臨,可能不會,因為我們不在了。只有「現在」屬於我們,所以要「把握現在」。

 

及時的重要

        「與一切活人相連的,那人還有指望,因為活著的狗比死了的獅子更強。活著的人知道必死,死了的人毫無所知,也不再得賞賜,他們的名無人紀念,他們的愛,他們的恨,他們的嫉妒,早就消滅了。在日光之下所行的一切事上,他們永不再有分了。」(傳九4~6)

        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。

        有人在做事情之前會有百般的顧慮,而不冒失急躁的行動,這原是一件好事。但是顧慮太多,以致於錯過了機會,那就可惜。有個年輕小伙子,大學畢業後開始找工作,考慮在那個公司上班,想到許多優點和缺點,猶豫不決,五年在家吃老本,當個啃老族。工作了五年,考慮要不要結婚,列舉結婚的好處和壞處,又是猶豫不決,拖拉了五年,然後遇到一位小姐,也考慮和她結婚的優點和缺點,又是猶豫不決,又拖拉了五年,終於決定和她結婚,然後去對這位小姐表白,小姐回答說,先生,我已經結婚生孩子了,對不起,沒有等你。機會不等人的。

        參加喪禮是一個生命反省的機會。「往遭喪的家去,強如往宴樂的家去。因為死是眾人的結局,活人也必將這事放在心上。」(傳七2)在忙碌的生活步調中暫停一下,往後瞧瞧,向前看看,死亡可能隨時突然發生,我的遺願清單(bucket list)實現多少?在生命的關照中得著智慧的心,當下就抓住真正有價值的事物,不再浪費時間與生命。

 

喜樂的滋味

        在人的世界裡,快樂有兩種,一個是肉體的享受,另一個是精神的滿足。吃、喝、穿都和身體有關,享受這些感官可以帶來快樂,但是這些感官的快樂都是短暫的,幾個小時後又會發生缺乏,需要不斷的滿足才有快樂。反反覆覆,有的人就會覺得厭煩,沒有新鮮感。精神的滿足可以稍微長久一些,讀書獲得知識的時候讓人快樂。聆聽美妙的音樂也會帶來一種甜美。與好朋友相聚,酒逢知己千杯少。所羅門王的快樂應該是全世界第一名,「凡我眼所求的,我沒有留下不給它的,我心所樂的,我沒有禁止不享受的,因我的心為我一切所勞碌的快樂,這就是我從勞碌中所得的份。」(傳二10)可是他最後卻說,都是虛空,都是捕風。勞碌累心,日日憂慮,愁煩不安,眼看,看不飽,耳聽,聽不足(傳一8)。那麼,什麼喜樂的滋味可以持續不斷,在天下一生當行何事為美?(傳二3)

        認識創造天地萬物和人類生命的神,得到祂的同在與賜福,有吃有喝,享受勞碌得來的好處,在勞碌中喜樂,而且不多思念自己一生的年日,壽命長短已經不重要了,因為神應我們的心使我們喜樂(傳五18~20)。生命的源頭來自於神,神對我們每個人的生命都給予一個獨特的使命和任務,所以使我們出生在這世界上,某時某地。當我們找到神,與神交通,常常讀經、禱告、唱詩歌,就可以明白自己生命的價值和意義。這樣的喜樂充滿生命每個時刻,每個段落。

        因為認識神這麼好,所以我們很高興,很樂意把這樣的認識介紹給我們的親戚朋友,希望他們也能和我們一樣,認識主耶穌,認識自己的生命。所以傳福音的過程也給我們滿足的喜樂,帶領一位慕道者,從生命的困頓中走出來,認識神,得到恩典,生命得到轉變。

        保羅原來是熱心的法利賽人,逼迫基督徒,內心卻常常在善與惡的交戰中掙扎,所願意的善,卻做不出來,所不願意的惡,反倒去做,「因爲立志為善由得我,只是行出來由不得我」(羅七18~19),「我真是苦啊,誰能救我脫離這取死的身體呢?」感謝神,保羅最後靠著聖靈的幫助,脫離罪和死的律,在這一切的事上得勝有餘了(羅八26、37)。此後,保羅看萬物為糞土,以認識主耶穌基督為至寶,到世界各地去傳福音,希望別人像他一樣,如此,他終身體驗喜樂的滋味。

        主耶穌叫門徒要彼此相愛,讓眾人認出是主的門徒(約十三34~35)。愛裡有喜樂,因為在付出的過程裡實現自己的生命價值,也看見別人的成長, 猶太人的諺語說,行善好像灑香水,對方有香氣,有收穫,自己也有香氣,有滿足的喜樂。 

        生命無常,所以要「及時行樂」,但是要行的樂卻不是違背神的誡命,只在人的世界範圍中的短暫快樂,而是可以提昇生命的高度,敬畏神,親近神,開闊生命的寬度,與人相敬相愛,紮根於生命的深度,明白智慧的奧秘,延伸生命的長度,名字登記在神的生命冊上,在樂園裡永生。

        保羅知道離世的時候到了,回顧一生,「那美好的仗我己經打過了,當跑的路我已經跑盡了,所信的道我已經守住了,從此以後,有公義的冠冕為我存留。」(提後四6~8)生命到此劃上一個句點,漂亮結尾。