Advice from a Stuffed Tiger

At this point I know I am probably famous (or infamous) for using secular songs as jump-off points for my sermons. However, today’s inspiration came from a comic instead of a tune.

Any Calvin and Hobbes fans here?

Although I wish Bill Watterson was still producing more of that strip, there is something to be said for stopping at the top of your game…and staying “stopped.” Michelle and I have plenty Calvin and Hobbes books, and Friday I randomly opened one of them in the middle and found an interesting four box conversation between Calvin and his loyal friend, Hobbes:

Calvin and Hobbes

Box 1: Calvin: “‘Live for the moment’ is my motto.

Box 2: Calvin: “You never know how long you’ve got! You could step into the road tomorrow and — wham — you get hit by a cement truck! Then you’d be sorry you put off your pleasures!”

Box 3: Calvin: “That’s why I say ‘live for the moment.’ What’s your motto?”

Box 4: Hobbes: “Look down the road.”1

🙂

Well, between Calvin and Hobbes we’ve been given a clear choice between pretty disparate advice, haven’t we?

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

And as Christians it would be easy to discount what Calvin suggested and immediately take Hobbes’ side. But, it’s not like Calvin is alone in his judgment. “Live for the moment” and “live for today” are a pretty constant drumbeat, isn’t it? How many here, for instance, remember the song made famous by the Grass Roots?

When I think of all the worries people seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry to complicate their mind
By chasing after money and dreams that can’t come true
I’m glad that we are different, we’ve better things to do
May others plan their future, I’m busy lovin’ you (1-2-3-4)

Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey, hey, hey
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
Live for today2

On Lyric Depot, where I grabbed those words instead of transcribing them, a couple of the comments were instructive:

by terry marshall on 12/28/2009 1:12am
I’m almost sixty-years old and this song haunts me as the New Year approaches. It’s lyrics resound in my ears. still today. it’s such a powerful guide to live my life. “When I think of all the worries people seem to find.”. Wake up each morning and embrace life.

by dave on 6/25/2012 10:45pm
no truer words were said3

So, are Calvin, the Grass Roots, Terry, and Dave all correct?

Or, is a stuffed tiger’s advice on the mark?

And, by the way, did you see how I snuck in a secular song? 🙂

The Bible’s “Live for Today”

But, as followers of Jesus Christ we don’t look for guidance from comic strips or 60’s songs do we?

No, we look at the same place Jesus did while He was here on earth: The Word of God.

And let’s start with James 4:13-14:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Hmmm…that sure sounds a lot like Calvin instead of Hobbes, doesn’t it?

If our lives are “a mist that [appear] for a little time and then [vanish],” then we’d better enjoy it as much as we can for whatever short time we have it, eh?

But, that’s only one Scripture. Let’s see what the wisest man ever has to say about it:

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them (Ecclesiastes 9:7-12).

Hmmm…if we never know when we can be snared in an “evil net”…and the Bible says, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart,” then it really does seem like Calvin’s cement truck confirms that little boy’s advice to “live for the moment.”

But, let’s be serious, Ecclesiastes is a book we have to be very cautious with…so instead let’s see what Jesus Christ Himself recommends in Matthew 6:34:

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Hmmm…even Jesus is saying not to think about tomorrow?!?!

The score appears to be: stuffed tigers 0, difficult boys 3…

The Bible’s True “Live for…”

What I just did, of course, was what so many “Christians” and non-Christians do…and I pulled scriptures out of context to make an argument that the Bible itself does not make. For instance, it’s true that James reminds us how fleeting our life is, but if we just continue into his next three verses:

15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:15-17).

If we just continue in the next three verses we see that James wasn’t trying to say, “Hey, live it up…you may die tomorrow!”

He was saying, “Don’t boast…instead realize you owe every single breath to God.”

How about Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes?

Although there is plenty in that book that can be read “as is,” as a whole the safest thing to do is remember that it is a words of a man who, in many respects, wasted the gift of wisdom God gave him. Luckily Solomon realized it before he died, and in a very unique way he shares the vanity of…of all things…anything you can get from life on this earth. Instead of reading too much “live for the moment” into the verses we previously read from him, we should focus on the very last two verses of Ecclesiastes:

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Yes…as James pointed out…you could bite the dust tomorrow…but instead of trying to work in whatever you can today (checking off your “bucket list”)…you should “fear God and keep his commandments…for God will bring every deed into judgment…whether good or evil.”

Finally…when it comes to my initial abuse of Scripture…most of you probably already recognized the section of the Bible it came from, and are very familiar with the point Jesus was really trying to make. God’s got you covered on this earth, so don’t be anxious about today. But, more importantly, the verse just prior to the one I misused clearly states:

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

However we live our lives we should be first seeking “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

Now, that’s even better advice than Calvin or Hobbes’, isn’t it?

It May End Quickly

The fact that Jesus’ advice is even superior to both Calvin and Hobbes’ doesn’t mean either (or both) are wrong. For instance, even our Lord confirms that a cement truck might have our number today:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).

Sure, Calvin is right and you may only have a moment to live…but Jesus’ parable comes to quite the opposite conclusion, doesn’t it? There is nothing here on earth that will last beyond the moment, so laying up treasure four ourselves…whether in material items or experiences…”is not rich toward God.”

Or, as Jesus says elsewhere:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

And this is where Hobbes’ advice to “look down the road” really comes into focus. No, we may not see tomorrow…and, as such, if we look down the road something is staring us in the face. Hebrews 9:27, which I’ve shared more than once here in this pulpit, makes it clear what that is:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

Or, as we read Solomon say in a moment of true wisdom:

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Contrary to what Dave on 6/25/2012 at 10:45PM said about the Grass Roots’ “Let’s Live for Today”…there are no truer words than those in Ecclesiastes.

When we look down the road every one of us sees that we will face judgment.

Once again…

When we look down the road every one of us sees that we will face judgment.

Will You Face Judgment Alone?

Now, if those words don’t worry you then it’s for one of two reasons.

#1 — you are ignoring reality and heading toward hell at full speed.

It could be because your an atheist, convinced that there is nothing more to existence than what physics can imagine…even though…

…what can be known about God is plain to [you], because God has shown it to [you]. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [you] are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).

Or perhaps you are ignoring reality because some other religion, of your own making or another person’s, is telling you there is another path to salvation…or perhaps worse…that there are multiple paths to salvation.

Or that a “loving” God will save everyone.

But, you can only believe that by rejecting the clear teaching of Scripture and Jesus Himself…and when you face judgment you’ll see just what a fool you have been.

I know “fool” is a harsh word…but I can assure you that when you look in the face of Jesus and see all that you lost you will feel like a fool…and that will be the least of your problems.

So, ignorance…often willful…is one of the reasons you may not worry about the judgment. What is the other one?

At least in the English Standard Version Hebrews 9:27 is only half a sentence. Let’s read it again, but continuing on to verse 28 where the writer of Hebrews completes his thought:

27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:27-28).

The second reason you might not worry about the judgment is because not only does Jesus have you covered from a “don’t be anxious about today” sense…He’s got you covered from a tomorrow sense…as in tomorrows for all eternity…including the judgement day for all of us whose sins he was offered once to bear. We have nothing to fear because we are of the “many” of Hebrews 9:28.

And as such, whenever I hear that He “will appear a second time”…I respond like John in Revelation 22:20:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

How about you? When you hear these words…or perhaps read them on a web site after they were preached…are you prepared for the Lord’s return? Do you cry out, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”…whether His return for you will be when there is a “cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) or Calvin’s cement truck? Do you fear the judgment or look forward to it? Will you face the judgment alone, or with Jesus by your side?

Or, returning to the comic strip that started it all for today’s talk…

When Jesus returns for you, will He find you were living for the moment, or looking down the road?

Footnotes

1Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, November 24, 2010. (n.d.).GoComics. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2010/11/24/

2Lets Live For Today Lyrics by Grass Roots. (n.d.).Lyrics Depot. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from http://www.lyricsdepot.com/grass-roots/lets-live-for-today.html

3Ibid.


Follow Traditores

Your thoughts?