Now and ForeverSeptember 30, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” — Psalm 90:12
Many years ago, supermarkets used to award customers with a free shopping spree. I remember once hearing on the radio that a local woman was the 100th customer at the new local grocery in town, and they gave her five minutes to fill her cart with anything that she wanted.
The woman had a whole route mapped out in order to strategically fill her cart with the best and most items possible. Other past winners gave her advice on how to capitalize on the opportunity – what to buy and what to pass up. Every second counted, and the woman was determined to make the best of the time that she had.
Jewish tradition teaches that when every person passes on to the next world, they will be brought to a heavenly trial. All of our wrongdoings will be made known, and we will have to defend ourselves. The Sages teach that every person will plead insanity because the only way that a person could possibly go against the will of God, is if he is temporarily insane. The reasoning goes, if we were thinking clearly, we would never sin.
Here is where a lot of us get confused: We act like we will live forever and behave like eternity is just a moment. The psalmist writes: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” If we understood how short life is and how long eternity will last, we would know how to live our lives. But this truth about reality is difficult for the average man to grasp and even harder to remember.
Psalm 90 reminds us of how brief even a long life really is. “In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered” (v. 6). In contrast to eternity, our lives are like grass that is new in the morning, but gone by the end of the day. If you blink, you might miss it. Like the woman with the shopping opportunity, we need to make the most of every moment that we have. We need to make a plan and seek advice. How we spend our lives today will have consequences forever.
The shopping-spree gimmick may be a thing of the past, but we all have a similar opportunity today. We are given a brief amount of time in this world in order to do as much good as we can. Think about the shortness of life and contemplate eternity. How does that change the way we will live our lives in the present?