In the talks I’ve seen lately, I’ve noticed a lot of good things. Most if not all of these speakers have overcome astonishing obstacles. They have risen from levels of disadvantage many would consider insurmountable, and have lived very accomplished and impressive lives. Many were born into dire poverty. Some have overcome physical disabilities. (One extremely successful speaker, a blind man, amazed the audience by casually pacing across the stage during his talk, often walking perilously close to the edge of the stage.) A person can’t help but admire someone who overcomes enormous odds, especially in this day and age, when adversity is more often met by excuses than action.
I was also impressed by several of the speakers, in their emphasis on the importance of every person, no matter how insignificant that person may seem to the world. Intentionally or not, these speakers were touching on the heart of the Gospel message on the incredible dignity of human life created in the image and likeness of God. In a time and a culture where “unwanted” life is so easily discarded, a message of respect like that can only help.
These speakers — every single one of them — also emphasized that this life is short. Each and every one of us will die some day, and that day will come sooner than we like to contemplate. That, of course, is the heart of the Christian message. Or at least it’s moving closer to the heart of this message.
But this is where I begin to have a problem with most of the motivational speakers I’ve seen. They all seem to spend an inordinate amount of time emphasizing that life is short. Fine. I agree. But how do we respond to this fact? How do we act, how do we live our lives given the brevity of our existence on this earth?
We make a lot of money.
That’s right — somehow, somewhere, far too many of these speakers make the inexplicable leap from “life is short” to “so get as rich as you can.” And it just baffles me. I can’t for the life of me see how the leap is made or where the logical connection between these two completely contradictory ideas lies.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem, per se, with people making money. I have no problem with people making a lot of money, as long as they do it in an ethical way. But doesn’t the fact that life is short perhaps argue the opposite point — that maybe making money isn’t the best use of our time given that it won’t be doing us any good once we’re gone?
I’ve concluded that the difference between their thinking and mine lies in which half of the equation we’re viewing. They’re acknowledging that this life is short, but they’re still only looking at this short little life. It doesn’t last long, so you have to enjoy it as much as possible while you can. Load up on the goodies, because there are a lot of them around here and your chance to load up will soon be gone. Live your life to the fullest, because once it’s over, it’s over.
I see things very differently. When I’m looking at the brevity of life, my first question is “Then what?” We live for a while, and then we die. Whether we were rich or poor, whether we enjoyed life or not, it all ends just the same. And while the motivational speakers are looking backwards at how much fun life was, I’m looking ahead. What do we have to look forward to after we die? Is there more life? Is there another life?
As Christians, we believe there is. We believe that this short little life is just a prelude to the real life — life with God. And the next life won’t be so short. In fact, we’re told that it’s eternal. It never ends. We won’t have to jam all the gusto, and all of the money, into a short little period of time. We’ll have eternity to gaze upon the face of God, a sight which alone fulfills all of the longings of the human heart.
But, there’s a catch. To be with Christ in the next life, we need to choose Him — in this life. At the moment when our brief little earthly lives end, we’re going to be asked a few questions. “How did you love?” “How did you spread my love?” “Did you bring others to me?” A lot will be riding on the answers to those questions. And I can absolutely guarantee that there will be no interest whatsoever in questions like “How much money did you make” or “Did you have a lot of fun while you were there?”
So while we’re here, we need to make some choices. Which life are we going to focus on? If we’re focusing on this brief little life, then we’ll probably spend it trying to make a lot of money and have a lot of fun. I’d call people like that “short-term investors.” They’re investing all of their “capital” in a life that ends.
“Long term investors” see things a little differently. We figure that, if this life is short and the next life is long, maybe we’d be better off spending our time and efforts preparing for the eternal life that is to come. We focus on bringing the love of God to others, so that we can be with Him eternally and bring them to Him as well. And, ironically, living that kind of love not only brings us happiness in the next life, it actually makes us more fulfilled in the here and now. Maybe it’s because we realize we’re building up capital we can’t lose.
Again, I have nothing against making money. I have nothing against having fun. But I do have a problem with making either or both of these our primary goals in this life. Because money and fun constitute a very short-term investment. When we’re gone, they’re gone. When we’re standing before God, answering those important questions, no amount of the money, property and prosperity will help us.
Life is short. Pray hard and love well. That’s motivational.
(You may visit Mary Beth Bonacci's website at www.reallove.net.)