How Life Is Measured

Back in the 80s there was a bumper sticker that read “The one who dies with the most toys wins”. I never was clear whether this was meant to be taken as sort of mantra celebrating the zeitgeist of consumerism . . . or just a sarcastic denouncement of such a vacuous value system. But either way, this provocative statement does raise an important question – How is the good life best measured? . . . Especially, in light of the brevity of time we are given on this earth to live that life. But how is such a thing to be arbitrated? By what scales are such things judged?

When measuring most anything there are usually two basic categories: Quantity and Quality — one concerns itself with how much (volume), while the other with what kind (type) . . . each invariably requiring its own standard of measurement. But then again, that’s exactly how a consumerist would approach the question . . . assuming that value could be existentially assessed. So it would seem, the first question we need to ask would be: If we don’t exist to consume, then what is the point of our existence? Because the logic is simple – any measurement of how we exist, must first contend with the question of why we exist.

In scripture, the book of Ecclesiastes systematically works its way through every measurement of what life offers (both quality and quantity) known to man. All that can be accumulated, consumed, and experienced is examined in order to determine innate value, but each is found wanting. Until finally, all of it is pronounced a wasteland of vain banality . . . ultimately meaningless, in and of itself. Which is to say, of all the stuff that we can own and experience, none of it is capable of providing us with meaning or significance, but can only point us toward the source of significance.

In the beginning, as image bearers of God, we were given dominion of the earth – meant to participate in the purposes of God. So all of our material possessions can only find significance and value as we are good stewards of them – the inanimate being animated by the purposes of God through us. The taste of food, the pleasure of sex, the beauty of a sunset, the laughter of children – have absolutely no value at all . . . apart from our experience of them as expressions of God’s love for us. Therefore, the number of our days we are given are meant as a testimony, each one an oblation and celebration of God’s creation.

So how is life measured? It is measured by the glory we return to God, and in the praise and thanksgiving we offer up to him for all that we are, and all that we have. For it is in him that we find our being, and from that, our significance. So everything we put our hand to, everything we experience, and all that our eyes can behold – points us to God’s glory. Therefore, to whatever extent we put the confession of this truth into practice, we are experiencing the full measure of life . . . as it was always intended.

. . . so teach me to know my number of days

5 thoughts on “How Life Is Measured

  1. I have been reading CS Lewis’ book, Reflections on the Psalms. It has really helped me see this book of the Bible in such a new light. As an adult now, I am filled with joy and happiness in following the Lord, in being at worship and in reading his words as well. The joy of doing his will is unequal to anything this world offers. I only wonder why I didn’t see this sooner. I am so grateful to know it now and hope I can transmit it to my children so they will know it sooner than I.

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  2. Loathe the currently in vogue phrase Living Your Best Life. Best Life according to whose standards – God’s word or man’s egocentric ideas of status, wealth and pleasure.
    The follow up sticker was He who dies with the most toys, still dies.

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  3. This seriously resonates with me.
    Lori and I had worked our way to a place that we both had decent jobs and had paid our debt down to a very reasonable level. Money in the bank, vehicles paid off. A couple toys here and there, nothing too crazy but we had done things the way we thought we were supposed to. The American Dream, in a way.
    Then came a season of loss. Lori’s job. My health. Then my job. Three and a half years of living off one small salary. Everything was gone. All our “stuff”. Rough days no doubt.
    Then we started noticing that when we really needed something, it would appear. Out of the strangest places some time and never when we worried about it but when we actually needed it, it was there.
    Then, because of back pay from Disability we were able to purchase a 28 ft travel trailer and a used Suburban to tow it with. It happened that we were able to purchase a Camping Pass right when we were wondering where we were going to park our camper.
    It worked out well for over 2 years and then the having to move every two weeks started to become a little much. We were thankful for where we were, what we were able to do, but we really needed a way to not have to move so often, especially as Summer started firing up.
    We were staying at a State Park for a week and, in talking with one of the resident hosts, found out there was a volunteer position open that would take care of our lot rent and electricity. A situation that we can easily work with. Pretty much tailor made for us.
    So, the point of this novel is that we thought we had it all. Doing well financially. Becoming better and better stewards of what was provided for us. But then everything changed. We pretty much lost everything we had worked for and were forced to change the whole way we look at life.
    We lost our stuff! But we found something even better. We were forced to trade stuff for what has become a much happier life. Right now it seems like quite the handsome trade

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  4. Hi. Thank you for the post. When you asked the question of how our life is measured, I was going to say by the rule of God’s Word. Although that is true, the way you put it in the end is more endearing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thanks saint Greg… a timely word for me. sometimes i let the pressures of this world push me around… it can be very disorienting… very discouraging. again, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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